Disengagement seeps into the boardroom

Nov 28 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

It isn't just junior and middle-ranking employees who are suffering from a crisis of engagement. Fewer than half of the faces around your boardroom table are fully engaged or committed to their jobs, a study of companies around the world has revealed.

Exploding the myth that senior executives are more highly driven than their more lowly colleagues, the poll of organisations in six countries – the U.S, Britain, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden – found that just 47 per cent of chief executives, managing directors and other board directors admitted to being "fully engaged".

Just as worrying, the survey of more than 16,000 people found that even in the most engaged country – Norway – only around half of other workers considered themselves to be fully engaged.

The U.S, on 43 per cent, did better than Britain, which came bottom of the poll with fewer than a third (29 per cent) of workers saying they were motivated. Australia, on 38 per cent, was mid-way up the table.

"I would seriously worry about the state of any business where the top people are not fully on board," said Charles Fair of Right Management, which carried out the research.

"Not only are directors responsible for managing the company's performance and direction, they are responsible for ensuring more junior staff are motivated and working productively," he added.

Companies with committed, motivated employees often saw revenues boosted by a third, had double the level of customer loyalty and were 44 per cent more likely to turn in above-average profits than comparable organisations, he pointed out.

"Staff retention rates are also much higher when a workforce is engaged. It's already a jobseekers' market, and with the anticipated global skills shortage expected to impact over the coming years, employers need to work harder now to attract and retain quality staff.

"Companies with a highly engaged workforce are better at attracting talent, as success breeds success," Fair added.

The research also found that the longer a person stayed with an organisation the more disengaged they felt.

Three quarters of those who had been with their present employer for five years or more did not feel either satisfied or committed, compared with more than half of those who had been there for less than a year.

This indicated a need for HR to focus on constantly motivating long-term employees, said Fair.

Managers who were good at developing people and senior leaders who valued staff were top drivers for employee engagement.

However the research revealed that just four out of ten employees believed their immediate manager had good staff development skills and nearly two-thirds felt senior leaders did not value their employees.

Just a quarter of workers were "stars", or workers who believed their organisation was a great place to work and who were fully engaged with the organisation.

More than a sixth were "benchwarmers" who really liked their company but were not fully engaged and three per cent were "free agents" who were committed to their work but did not think their company was a great place to work.

As a result, the survey suggested, this left more than half who are "disconnected", neither considering their organisation a great place to work nor being fully engaged with it.