UK workers' levels of engagement with the companies that employ them are significantly lower than those of most of their counterparts within other major European countries, new research suggests.
Watson Wyatt's Work Europe 2005 survey - which involved a representative sample of more than 8,500 private sector workers from across Europe - found that only 12 per cent of employees in the UK could be described as 'fully engaged' with their business.
This compares to 36 per cent of Swiss, 24 per cent of Irish and 18 per cent of German employees.
Only Italian employees, at 9 per cent, were less engaged than their UK counterparts.
The firm suggests that this is putting UK employers and the UK economy at a considerable disadvantage.
Another recent Watson Wyatt survey found that four out of 10 UK employees are considering leaving their current employer in the next 12 months, five per cent more than the European average.
"Constructive employee engagement has two fundamental dimensions," said Andrew Cocks, European head of employee research at Watson Wyatt.
"The first dimension is commitment to the organisation and a willingness to go the extra mile to help it succeed. The second is alignment to business objectives, with employees having a good understanding of what they need to do as individuals help the organisation to achieve its goals.
"Lack of employee engagement is not just an issue for HR professionals. Our research shows that it can hit the bottom line hard and is likely to put UK employers at a significant disadvantage to their European competitors. It therefore has to be seen as fundamental business issue that affects everyone."
According to Watson Wyatt, one factor that has consistently been shown to be a driver of constructive employee engagement is the perception that opportunities for development and advancement exist. This can have much greater impact than providing satisfactory base pay.
Other factors that influence engagement include providing employees with the reasons behind major decisions, levels of trust in senior management and confidence in the company's long-term business success.
These are all issues where the UK has been consistently shown to lag most of its major competitors.