What is employee engagement and how engaged are employees in 2018?

A common theory among HR experts and behavioural psychologists is that higher levels of engagement in the workplace improves productivity. What is employee engagement, however, and to what levels are employees engaged in 2018?

These were some of the questions addressed by a report from HR.com. It based the report on the results of a survey of businesses, with most of the participants being HR professionals.

The starting point of the report was to see if there was agreement as to the definition of employee engagement.

 

What is engagement in the workplace?

The way HR professionals define employee engagement is important as there is no standard, commonly accepted definition.

The survey also found no consensus on the issue, with participants offering a varying range of opinions on the definition of employee engagement. Participants were given six options and were asked to select all that were relevant.

The most popular choice was “an employee’s willingness to give his or her best at work” – 84 percent of survey participants thought this was a suitable definition for employee engagement.

The second most popular definition was “an employee’s emotional commitment to the organisation and its objectives” which 75 percent of participants selected.

employee engagement 2018

(Image from our free downloadable infographic which can be accessed here).

The report authors said both of the above were standard definitions of employee engagement that many experts in the field would accept. They also noted, however, that participants also selected definitions that engagement experts would regard as being invalid. The example given was “an employee’s level of satisfaction with his or her work situation”, which 69 percent of survey respondents said was a suitable definition.

 

Lack of consensus

So, why is there such a disparity when it comes to defining employee engagement? The report authors offer possible explanations. This includes organisations having their own culture which influences opinion on employee engagement, as well as the tendency we all have to opt for concise definitions even with complex topics – such as describing employee behaviour and motivation.

Another explanation offered by the report authors is the fact experts in the industry offer their own definitions of employee engagement to differentiate themselves from their competitors. This applies to academic institutions, professional associations, companies, and consultants.

 

How engaged are employees in 2018?

Using the most popular definition of employee engagement among participants, the survey authors then looked at levels of engagement. They summarised the most popular definition as employees who give discretionary effort.

The results show that only 44 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree their employees give discretionary effort. Breaking that figure down further, only nine percent strongly agree. This demonstrates that most organisations have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to employee engagement.

 

Going deeper

Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story. After all, every organisation will have employees who are engaged and those who are not. So, the next stage of the survey involved asking participants about the percentage of employees in their organisation who are engaged. The results of this question again demonstrate room for improvement:

  • 70-100 percent of employees are engaged – 33 percent of survey respondents
  • 40-69 percent of employees are engaged – 38 percent of survey respondents
  • 0-39 percent of employees are engaged – 30 percent of survey respondents

employee engagement 2018

(Image from our free downloadable infographic which can be accessed here).

Does the size of organisation matter? The survey found it does, with medium-sized companies struggling the most. Participants from mid-size companies believe 25 percent of their employees are engaged. The corresponding figure for small companies is 48 percent and for large companies it is 30 percent.

The report authors say this indicates small organisations find it easier to engage employees because they can offer “personal, high-touch management”.

While there are differences depending on the size of the organisation, the general finding of the report in relation to levels of employee engagement in 2018 is that most, if not all, companies can do better. The reward for doing so is improved business performance.

Our next blog will look at the impact of engagement in the workplace and the ways organisations are measuring it.

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