U.S. Employee Engagement Declines Despite Growing Confidence

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Modern Survey, a Minneapolis-based human capital measurement firm, has released its Fall 2015 Employee Engagement Study and the results are mixed.

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It's an odd phenomenon that engagement is declining, yet people are more satisfied with the other elements of the work environment.

The study, which surveyed over 2,000 U.S. employees, found that employee engagement levels are declining. Modern Survey defines engagement as the degree to which employees are psychologically invested in the organization and motivated to contribute to its success. Engaged employees devote discretionary effort toward attaining organization-wide goals. This fall’s study found that only 13% of employees are fully engaged. That is down slightly from 14% in Spring 2015 and 16% in Fall 2014. Disengagement in the U.S. has been relatively stable over the last year with the current level at 22% which is the same as Fall 2014 and down slightly from 23% in Spring 2015.

Despite the decline of the fully engaged numbers over the last year, most of the items on the study have improved. Of the 58 items measured, 23 have increased significantly, 28 have stayed within the margin of error and only 7 declined significantly.

“It’s an odd phenomenon that engagement is declining, yet people are more satisfied with the other elements of the work environment and the relationships with their leaders and organizations,” says Don MacPherson, President of Modern Survey.

Confidence in the organization is at the highest point reported since Modern Survey began the study in 2007. More employees feel their organization is “headed in the right direction” than ever before. According to the most recent study, 63% of employees responded favorably, which is up from 60% just six months ago. Even more remarkable is that in Spring 2013, only 48% of people responded favorably to that item.

Perceptions of career development are at the highest ever as well. Four years ago, only 43% of employees said they could “grow and develop” at their organization. In Spring 2015, it was 53%. Now it is 59%.

“We are entering a period of entitlement at work,” says MacPherson. “Unemployment is very low and recruiters are being very aggressive so many people are getting caught in the hype. They see their workplace improving, but that isn’t stopping them from expecting more from their organization.”

To support that, people are looking for opportunities outside their organizations at much higher rates. When responding to the item “I am currently looking for a job at another organization,” more than a third of participants (34%) responded that they are. That is up from 28% in Fall 2014.

“The economy and job market are fluid,” say MacPherson. “If unemployment continues to stay low, organizations can expect that more people will test the waters to see if there are better opportunities elsewhere. The best strategy to avoid losing great people is to focus on building a strong culture no matter what the market forces are.”

To see comprehensive results from the study, visit http://www.modernsurvey.com/fall2015.

About the Study
Modern Survey began conducting the Employee Engagement study in August 2007 to a nationally representative sample of U.S. working adults (18+ years old) who matched census data in terms of age, gender and region. The study is performed every six months. The most recent iteration, conducted in October 2015, polled 2,004 U.S. working adults matching the same census criteria.

About Modern Survey
Modern Survey measures workforce intensity — that fire in your company’s belly that makes all things possible. Our human capital measurement software combines feedback, benchmarks and data from enterprise systems to elucidate the correlation between employee performance and company success. We analyze the stuff your talent management system can’t — so that you know what to do next. We are Modern Survey. And we are relentless. To find out more, visit http://www.modernsurvey.com.

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Don MacPherson
Modern Survey
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