Doing more with less has become familiar to many of us—and our workforce is no exception. The World Bank estimates global GDP grew 2.3% in 2012, with expected continued moderate growth in 2013 (The World Bank, 2013). Much of this growth is driven by the human side of the equation. Between 2011 and 2012, 90% of countries saw an increase in productivity i.e., GDP per capita (IMF World Economic Database, 2013). Since 1993, revenue per employee has seen a 3.2% compound annual growth rate compared with little to no growth in revenue per cost of goods sold or per invested capital (CEB, 2013). These facts illustrate what most leaders know: companies (and countries) should be able to do more with the employees they have. Employee engagement is increasingly seen as a fundamental mechanism through which to attain superior organizational performance (IBM, 2013). Fundamentally, organizations can do more with more engaged employees. Presented in this report are insights into the global state of employee engagement based on one of the biggest employee research databases ever assembled. These insights help provide a roadmap for driving productivity through engagement of people. Armed with these big data, we identified three key findings that can challenge some of the commonly held beliefs concerning employee engagement and leadership:
- Neither the sky nor employee engagement is falling. Contrary to popular reports, in almost each country, our big data indicate employee engagement was up in 2012 compared to both 2010 and 2011.
- People join companies, but leave managers companies. The adage that people leave managers is not supported by big data. Although managers play an important role in supporting the engagement and retention of employees, they cannot go it alone. Their senior leaders should step up and take responsibility for delivering on what has been consistently the most important driver of employee engagement over the last five years—communicating a motivating vision of their organization’s future and inspiring confidence in their employees.
- The economic crisis should not be used a scapegoat. Compared to 2008, senior leaders’ ability to inspire confidence and motivate employees towards a shared vision was rated more positively in 2009, at the peak of economic turmoil. Ratings generally remained consistent or actually improved in 2010 and 2011. It was only in 2012, three years after the crisis, that confidence in leadership took a notable hit. Further, senior leaders were rated similarly or more positively in mature, stable and even economically challenged markets. These data suggest the economic crisis should not be used to explain poor perceptions of senior leader performance.
In addition to sharing the evidence for these myth-busting insights, this report will also give leaders valuable guidance into their role in promoting employee engagement to build organizational success.
For companies to be successful, employees must be engaged to perform, innovate and drive outcomes. This report will help organizations proactively manage employee engagement activities for future productivity by drawing attention away from what matters less—the economic climate and direct managers—and focusing on what matters more—visionary leadership.