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Nearly a decade of pressure to do more with less has made it difficult for employees to sustain a positive connection with their company. A new study of the global work force shows that, amid strict cost management, ever-changing technology, and global competition, almost two-thirds of U.S. workers do not feel fully engaged in their work and are struggling to cope with insufficient support. This has a direct impact on corporate performance, the study concludes.
Towers Watson, a professional services firm, surveyed more than 32,000 employees around the world to help companies better understand their diverse employee segments and the factors that influence employee performance on the job. Of the 3,600 U.S. workers that participated, 63 percent were found not to be highly engaged in a sustainable way.
The holy grail for work force management is sustainable engagement, Towers Watson said.
As defined by Towers Watson, sustainable engagement starts with basic engagement, defined as employees’ willingness to expend discretionary effort on their job. It also requires enablement ―having the tools, resources and support to do their job effectively ―as well as energy, through a work environment that actively supports employees’ well-being. The study measured these elements through workers' responses to specific questions.
Overall, only 37 percent of U.S. workers scored high on all three elements of sustainable engagement.
The rate of sustainable engagement was slightly higher than what the study found for workers in Canada (33 percent).
Just over one-quarter of U.S. workers (27 percent) were classified as unsupported, meaning they display traditional engagement but lack the enablement or energy required for sustainable engagement. Thirteen percent were detached, meaning they feel enabled or energized but were not willing to go the extra mile. And almost one-quarter (23 percent) were completely disengaged, scoring low for all three aspects of sustainable engagement.
This has a direct bottom-line impact, Towers Watson said. Companies with high sustainable engagement have operating margins almost three times those of organizations with a largely disengaged work force.
"When workers are not fully engaged, it leads to greater performance risk for employers," said Julie Gebauer, managing director of the Towers Watson talent and rewards practice. "It makes companies more vulnerable to lower productivity, higher inefficiency, weaker customer service and greater rates of absenteeism and turnover. Without attention and interventions aimed at improving on-the-job support for employees and creating a sense of attachment to the organization, this trend could worsen — and directly affect business outcomes.
"Companies have known for years that employee engagement is important to business performance. We’re now seeing — in part because of the tough business climate — that engagement is quite fragile and will not be sustained over time without careful attention to very specific elements in the work environment."