Towers Watson Global Workforce Study
Employee engagement may have begun life as a corporate buzzword, but over the last decade, it’s been widely acknowledged as a critical element in drawing out discretionary effort from workers. Studies at a number of organizations, including leading academic institutions, have shown a clear relationship between high levels of employee engagement — colloquially defined as the willingness and ability to go the extra mile —and improved financial and operational results.
But findings from our 2012 Global Workforce Study show that the steps organizations have taken to improve engagement are beginning to fall short. Globally, just over a third (35%) of the more than 32,000 full-time workers participating in our study are highly engaged. (See pages 20 – 21 for more details on the survey and the respondents.) On one level, this isn’t surprising. Five years of economic turmoil, nearly a decade of competing in a “flat” world and more than a decade of being connected24/7 have taken their toll. Employees everywhere— in recessionary as well as growth economies —express some level of concern about their financial and professional security, their stress on the job, their trust in their company’s leadership, the support they receive from their managers and their ability to build their careers. Many have been doing more with less — and for less — for over half a decade, and that reality doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, if ever. On a deeper level, however, this finding on employee engagement represents a wake-up call for employers, regardless of whether they’re competing to find enough of the right talent, struggling to maintain engagement following a major change in the business or trying to retain a cadre of workers with essential skills. Our data suggest that businesses appear to be at a critical tipping point in their ability to maintain engagement over time. While most are already running their businesses very differently in today’s highly interconnected global marketplace(see Brave New World of Work — and Workers, page 6), a surprisingly large number don’t appear to be keeping pace in terms of how they’re managing and supporting the very people assigned to execute the work on the ground. Put starkly, they are running 21st-century businesses with 20th-centuryworkplace practices and programs. And the cracks in the foundation are starting to show in both small and large ways.
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