Managing

Do your employees care? Their engagement level could be less than you think, new research shows

Melinda Oliver /

Sixty per cent of Australian and New Zealand employees are “disengaged” with their jobs, while 16% are “actively disengaged”, new research finds.

A new survey, The State of the Global Workplace, from international research organisation Gallup found that only 24%, of Australian and New Zealand staff were “engaged” in their role.

The ratio of engaged to disengaged employees, 1.5-to-1, was reported as one of the highest among all global regions. It was similar to results from the US and Canada, which showed a ratio of 1.6-to-1.

Gallup defined the concept of employee engagement as staff that are “emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day”.

It described those that are “disengaged” as staff who are “negative and potentially hostile to their organizations”.

Internationally, across 142 countries, the research found that only 13% of employees were engaged in their jobs.

The research found that 44% of employees who defined themselves as engaged in their jobs worked for companies that were hiring staff; 34% of those who were disengaged, or 25% who were actively disengaged, were at companies who we were hiring.

“This relationship is consistent across all global regions,” the report said.

Gallup found that East Asia had the lowest number of engaged employees in the world, at 6%. This was driven by China, which had only 6% of employees engaged in their jobs.

The Philippines had the highest level of employee engagement in Southeast Asia, with 29%, and only 8% were actively disengaged.

The highest levels of active disengagement were found in the Middle East and North Africa region, with Tunisia at 54%, Algeria at 53%, and Syria at 45%. High unemployment rates in these nations could be the cause, the report said, as disengaged workers may remain in jobs they don’t like for security.

The report said a common link was that organisations need to “more effectively understand and use their people’s talents, skills, and energy”.

“In each case, companies around the world will need to improve their ability to ensure that workers are in the right roles and are emotionally invested in their jobs,” it said.

Gallup chairman and chief executive Jim Clifton said that employee engagement starts with good management.

“If employees feel, among other things, that their supervisor takes a real interest in their development, or offers frequent praise and recognition, they are very likely to be engaged,” he said.

“Hiring the right managers is absolutely essential to building an engaged workforce. If companies throughout your country hire the right people to lead and actively encourage the engagement of their workforces, economic dominance will be sure to follow.”

RedBalloon founder and SmartCompany blogger Naomi Simson has written that she strives to build employee engagement in her business, which has led to the company appearing on the BRW Best Places to Work list. She describes it as an “employee experience journey”, which at RedBalloon is “far from static”.

“The leadership team are completely committed to the journey – knowing that it is not one single activity that ‘creates engagement’,” she says.

She says the company has six pillars of engagement, and constantly tries new things to enhance engagement as a team. The company tracks employee engagement with Aon Hewitt indexes.

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