Research Highlights Disengaged Workforce

By Ed Frauenheim

Dec. 2, 2009

Most researchers have documented a drop in overall engagement during the recession. In September, Workforce Management conducted a survey of about 525 readers at companies with 1,000 or more employees. Roughly 45 percent of respondents reported that engagement had decreased a little or a lot at their organization since the recession began. Nearly 27 percent said engagement had stayed the same, and 28 percent said it had increased.

Organizations with layoffs were more likely to see a drop in engagement, Workforce Management’s survey found. Of the 313 respondents who said they had experienced layoffs, 63 percent said the layoffs decreased employee engagement among the “survivors.”

One HR manager at a large travel industry company says engagement has dipped at her firm during the downturn. The organization went through a major restructuring with significant layoffs about three years ago. Then the recession hit. “It did lead to more job losses, more reduced security,” says the manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Employees are just feeling nervous.”

In a study of employees from across the globe, the Corporate Executive Board found that the percentage of employees who are highly disengaged climbed from 8 percent in the first half of 2007 to 21 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Unlike other studies, surveys by advisory firm Towers Perrin have not documented a slide in engagement during the downturn. But Towers Perrin research has shown signs of trouble for employers. In the second quarter, according to the firm, slightly more than one in five employees said it would not take a lot to make them look for a job elsewhere.

Workforce Management, November 16, 2009, p. 22Subscribe Now!

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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