Employee Engagement is Decreasing Globally

Americans aren’t the only ones with employee engagement problems. It turns out engagement is decreasing across the globe.

According to a recent report by Aon Hewitt, employee engagement has dropped two percentage points worldwide since 2015, and less than one quarter of employees are “highly engaged.”

Cause of the Decrease

Ken Oehler, Global Culture & Engagement Practice leader at Aon Hewitt, accounts for the overall decline as due to anxiety over the future of labor mobility.

“The rise in populist movements like those in the U.S., the U.K. and other regions is creating angst within organizations as they anticipate the potential for a decrease in free labor flow,” says Oehler.

According to Wikipedia, in the U.S., some current obstacles to worker mobility include:

  • Inadequate social safety nets.
  • “Right-to-work” laws.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and housing to accommodate fast-moving changes in labor demand.
  • Binding ties to a geographic location.
  • A worker’s lack of education or access to education.

Employees may see the labor movement as exacerbating some of these existing hinderances in the U.S.

Decrease Varies By Region

According to the study, Asia Pacific saw the biggest decline in engagement, from 65 percent in 2015 to 62 percent in 2016. In contrast, Latin America saw the biggest increase from 72 percent in 2015 to 75 percent in 2016. North America experienced a slight decline from 65 percent to 64 percent.

Impact of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is directly linked to revenue. According to Aon Hewitt, a 5 percent increase in employee engagement translates to a 3 percent increase in revenue growth the following year. Therefore companies struggling with engagement across the world can expect a fall in revenue by the end of 2017.

Additional factors affected by employee engagement are retention, productivity, company reputation, customer satisfaction, and frequency of sick days.

How to Increase Employee Engagement

Think your company might be a part of the engagement decrease statistics? The first step to getting employee engagement back on track is to respond to the changing environment with a new plan.

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Aon reported that reward and recognition was ranked as the motivator that could be most improved upon by employers this year, up from third in 2016.

Oehler says, “Leaders should understand that this actually reflects employees’ perceptions of fairness. While organizations may not be able to make sweeping changes to compensation, it is important that they take steps to address these sentiments.”

Senior leadership strength was also a top priority. “The ability for leaders to have the personal sensitivity required to lead people and their organizations to growth is paramount,” added Oehler.

How to be Perceived as Having “Personal Sensitivity”

To dive deeper into finding that “personal sensitivity,” we spoke with Steve Picarde, Jr., President of PI Midlantic, the leading Predictive Index® (PI) partner.

“Leaders are perceived as sensitive when employees believe the leader understands them and welcomes their insights,” says Picarde. “A behavioral assessment like The Predictive Index can be a guide for understanding employees and showing them that they are valued.

“The PI identifies the manager’s natural communication, decision-making, and leadership style. In regard to the employee, the PI measures how well they ‘fit’ in their job role; what motivates them; and strengths they bring to the organization. ”

Picarde recommends each manager sit down with their team members individually to share these results. It opens a dialogue and creates an understanding of what each needs to succeed. Leaders can then coach, motivate, and develop the employee based on this shared understanding.

“When an employee is allowed to share their insight into their behavioral results and share what will work for them they feel valued, respected, and understood,” says Picarde.

Hope For the Future

It’s true: employee engagement is decreasing globally. A lack of engagement can have a big impact on the businesses involved, but there’s hope for change. Be aware of what employees are reporting as important to them and get to know them on a personal level. Hopefully next year’s Aon results will be an upswing.


Guest post by Stephanie McGuinn