Global workforce less than enthusiastic about work

Global workers have grown weary of the workaday world.

More than one-third of the global workforce feels disengaged, with roughly the same percentage of workers believing that barriers at work keep them from excelling, according to research from Hay Group, a global management consultancy.

The study of more than 1,600 companies in 46 countries shows workers lacking motivation, possibly looking for another job—and dragging down company performance.

Hay Group defines engagement in two parts: commitment, including the intent to remain on the job; and discretionary effort, a willingness to go beyond prescribed duties to help the company.

Global engagement is at 66%, up by one percentage point from last year, but doing little to reverse a downward trend that began in 2007.

Hay Group’s research also reveals:

  • In North America, engagement is 69%, ahead of the global average, but it still has fallen three percentage points since 2009.

  • In Europe, the level of engagement fell to a five-year low of 63%.

  • More than two-fifths (44%) of employees worldwide plan to leave their jobs within five years, and 21% plan to leave within two years.

  • South America appears to have the brightest worker outlook, with engagement at 73%. The survey says 86% of South American workers feel proud to work for their companies.

The report also says that companies are holding employees back, at least in the eyes of the employees, 62% of whom do not feel enabled at work. The survey’s definition of enablement is two parts: a job that is challenging, interesting and makes good use of skills, and a work environment that is supportive and free of productivity barriers.

Employee engagement has been shown to affect a company’s financial performance. Hay Group’s research says high-performing companies have engagement levels around 75%.

“Low engagement and enablement levels are depressing company performance worldwide,” Mark Royal, senior principal at Hay Group, said in a statement. “However, an important challenge to business is the looming threat of increased employee turnover. While tight labour markets have reduced staff churn, there is a buildup of restless and frustrated employees, which now amounts to more than two-fifths of companies’ workers.”

The survey showed a decline in employee commitment across all regions for the fifth year in a row. Even in North America, a region where commitment is relatively high, 38% of workers intend to leave their job in five years or less. That’s up from 33% in 2011.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.


At work, engagement is lacking;; so is meaning

Dow Scott has learned plenty about engagement, through research as a professor and through time as a consultant to numerous companies, at the corporate level and on the production floor.

Scott, the author of a recent study on retention of key talent, says the main way to keep employees interested in simple. “At the end of the day, they want meaningful work,” says Scott, who now works at Loyola University in Chicago.

That’s the first of Scott’s three ways to keep employees engaged.

Click here to read more about what Scott defines as meaningful work – and to learn other tips on employee engagement.