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Survey finds only 10% of employees 'engaged': should we worry?

Apathy appears to be endemic, with implications for long-term financial performance, a survey suggests.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributor on

Call centers are the windows to the corporate soul. Right away, you instinctively get a whiff of the corporate culture behind the representative you are speaking with. There are too many occasions in which I have encountered individuals that come across as completely apathetic, and you actually feel as if you're pulling teeth to get a matter resolved. One can only imagine the type of workplace environment they are in.

Such apathy appears to be endemic. Modern Survey, which measures workforce productivity, just issued a survey that find that two-thirds of all US workers are either "disengaged" or "under engaged" with their jobs, and a scant 10% consider themselves to be "fully engaged."

Should we be concerned? Does it matter how "engaged" an employee feels, as long as they keep producing?

The survey report's authors observe that employee engagement "is key to business productivity, better financial performance, better employee performance and restoring the US economy."

Employee engagement is a direct product of corporate culture, which arises from not only having solid value, but is supportive of ongoing training, learning and participation.

Interestingly, the industries many considered to be the most downtrodden in recent years -- manufacturing and financial services -- have the most engaged employees. Perhaps this is a reflection of a "rallying" or "let's-all-pull-together" effect that may be occurring.  We're certainly seeing this in manufacturing, as reported in these pages as of late -- a focus on Lean methodologies, pushing down decision making to the ranks, a greater willingness to innovate.  About 19% of employees in heavy manufacturing were fully engaged, as were 16% of financial services workers. (Important note -- this still says eight out of ten employees within these industries are not engaged.)

Scoring lowest on the engagement scale are employees in the business services category, with only 3% fully engaged. Retail only fairs a little better at 8%, and government workers don't appear to be fully engaged, either.

So what do the study's authors mean, exactly, when they talk about being "engaged" in one's job? Here are the six top drivers of employee engagement observed in the survey. Note that you can't "buy" engagement, as monetary compensation ranks at the bottom of the list:

  1. My company/organization is headed in the right direction.
  2. I have confidence in the future of my company/organization.
  3. I can grow and develop at my company/organization.
  4. My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.
  5. Our values guide how people at my company/organization actually behave.
  6. I am paid fairly for the work I do.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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