Commitment of North American employees to their company has reached its lowest level since 2008, according to a study conducted by Aon Hewitt. 2,500 companies representing over 3.8 million employees were studied around the world to highlight the leading role employers have in involving their employees for the smooth running of their business.
Although the economic situation improved markedly in North America over the last year, commitment of employees has dropped significantly since 2008 to reach 53% in 2012. The region is still second after Latin America, where employees feel the most involved in their company (74%). Asia Pacific ranks third (58%) and Europe last (57%).
Work experience under scrutiny
While some areas relating to North American employees’ work experience had improved, others have deteriorated between 2011 and 2012. Thus, innovation rated 13 points higher, effective communications +7 points, performance management +7 points and pay +3 points. However, diversity appears 9 points lower, customer experience -7 points and leadership of the functional unit -4 points.
Ken Oehler, head of world employee engagement practice at Aon Hewitt, explains that although some aspects of work experience have improved, the widespread decline in engagement could indicate that companies are not investing sufficiently in managing talented staff. While North American organizations are faced with various pressures – requirement of profitable growth, volatility in the financial markets, political uncertainty and changes in the global workforce demographics – disengagement could have unfavourable repercussions in the longer term on business results.
The survey’s conclusions therefore call on business leaders to make employee engagement a priority in their business.
Executives more engaged
Finally, the Aon Hewitt study reveals, unsurprisingly, that North American employees holding the highest positions in the hierarchy feel more involved, at 75% for senior executives and managers. 68% of middle managers, team leaders and supervisors feel this way and 65% of team members and front line employees. The trend appears similar in terms of demographics, with baby boomers representing the most engaged employees (63%), followed by Generation X (58%) and Generation Y (57%).
Areas for improvement
Career opportunities represent, for the fifth consecutive year, the main factor for engagement of employees both globally and in North America. However, only 53% think they have real career prospects within their organization. Lorraine Stomski, head of leadership practice at Aon Hewitt, believes that employers must improve the opportunities for advancement of the most promising and most engaged employees. She suggests assigning them to key positions to keep them motivated. Consideration of career paths and conducting more frequent interviews will also allow companies to excel in this field.
Favouring good performance is the second challenge that companies must face for engaging their employees, for which 58% believe that they have adequate tools and resources to be efficient. Clearly defined objectives, simplified procedures, and adaptation of technology for productivity will reduce anxiety, stress and frustration of staff to enable everyone to express their potential.
Company reputation ranks third, with only 6 employees out of 10 being aware of their company’s market position. According to Ken Oelher, organizations must provide a clear and appropriate response to this question of reputation to attract, retain and engage talented staff. A company’s reputation depends not only on earnings, social responsibility and general impressions, but also the views of employees about their workplace.
The internal communication policy of companies is appreciated for its effectiveness by only half of employees worldwide. Transmission of information to employees, communication about their place in the organization and on the way forward constitute some of the means to build a sense of belonging to the company and provide a contribution to its success.
Recognition, finally, plays an important role. Only 50% of North American employees believe that their employer recognizes their efforts, performance and the difficulties that they encounter in their work. According to Ken Oelher, recognition is an excellent motivating factor for employees that doesn’t incur any cost for the organisation.