Study Shows Employees Don't Give it Their All

November 15, 2005 ( - A Towers Perrin HR Services study found that just 14% of employees worldwide are fully engaged on the job and willing to go the extra mile for their companies.

In its press release on the survey, Towers Perrin said the measure of people’s willingness and ability to give discretionary effort at work varies dramatically worldwide. The highest recorded levels are in Brazil (31%) and Mexico (40%). The four Asian countries in the study had recorded levels in the low single digits. Engagement levels fall in between these extremes across Europe and North America.

“The vast majority of the people we surveyed are moderately engaged at best, and a quarter of them are actively disengaged,” said Donald Lowman, a Managing Director of Towers Perrin HR Services business and a member of the firm’s Executive Council, in the news release. “This creates serious risks for companies since our research shows that companies with fewer engaged workers are far less likely to deliver on their growth agendas or achieve the kind of performance that shareholders demand.”

Eighty-four percent of highly engaged employees believe they can positively impact the quality of their company’s products, compared with 31% of the disengaged. Seventy-two percent of the highly engaged believe they can positively affect customer service while only 27% of the disengaged believe so, and 68% of the highly engaged believe they can positively impact costs in their job or unit, versus 19% of the disengaged.

The survey also found that highly engaged employees are far less likely to leave for another job than their less engaged peers. Worldwide, 59% of the highly engaged survey respondents planned to stay with their current employer, compared with just 24% of the disengaged group.

Perhaps the reason for this lack of commitment is thatemployees remain frustrated and skeptical about both their senior leadership and how well their company is delivering on their implied working contract with their employer. Julie Gebauer, Managing Director and leader of the Towers Perrin’s Workforce Effectiveness practice, says employees are feeling like they are not seeing rewards for hanging in there with their employer, such as pay raises and incentives, in spite of companies’ talk about pay for performance.

As far as senior leadership, according to the release, the survey found:

  • Just 41% think their senior management supports new ideas and new ways of doing things.
  • Only 40% think their senior management acts in a way that’s consistent with their values.
  • Just 37% think senior management tries to be visible and accessible to employees.
  • Only 36% think senior management effectively communicates the reasons for important business decisions.
  • Only a third believe senior management communicates openly and honestly to employees.

The study was conducted in August 2005 among more than 85,000 people working for large and midsize companies in 16 countries on four continents.