Departments - March/April 2011

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Level of Commitment
Employee Engagement Saw Increase in 2010

By Deborah L. Vence

Nearly everyone concerned about company morale probably has had a conversation or two and then some about employee engagement and how best to keep employees fully committed to their work and to go the extra mile.

Discussions about special employee incentive programs and product motivations have remained in overdrive over the last several years with more companies getting the message that their most valued employees need a little enticement from time to time.

Perhaps this high level of attention, in part, has made the difference in seeing an uptick in employee engagement last year. HR Solutions Inc., a Chicago-based international human capital management consulting firm that specializes in employee engagement and exit surveys, revealed in its 2010 overall employee engagement norms an increase in employee engagement to 27 percent in 2010 from 25 percent in 2009. The normative data is comprised of survey responses from more than 3.3 million employees at more than 2,400 organizations.

"Considering the state of the economy, the increase in the percentage of actively engaged employees is a large jump. This can partially be attributed to the fact that more employees are grateful to even have a job, and, therefore, are more likely to put in extra effort to remain in that position," said Chris Dustin, executive vice president of HR Solutions. "In the past couple of years, we have not noticed a significant shift in engagement levels, so a two percentage increase this year was a large shift."

During the same time period that the number of actively engaged employees increased, however, the percent of ambivalent employees (neither engaged nor disengaged) also increased slightly to 60 percent from 59 percent, while the percent of actively disengaged employees declined to 13 percent from 16 percent.

"The significant decline in actively disengaged employees can be attributed to two factors," Dustin said. "First of all, because of high unemployment rates, disengaged employees have realized that they need their jobs and, therefore, are willing to put in extra discretionary effort to ensure they remain in their positions. Secondly, organizations that had to make staff cuts during the past year were more likely to let disengaged employees go, as these employees tend to be low performers."

HR Solutions' Sweet 16 survey—used to measure employee engagement—measures factors regarding commitment and compensation. According to employees, compensation commonly is the most important self-selected factor to employees' future job satisfaction. Meanwhile, HR Solutions' Exit Survey Data identifies pay as the reason employees leave an organization 25 percent of the time.