Summary of
Global Research into Employee Engagement

Far too many employees are unhappy with their work and find it draining, demotivating and dissatisfying.

Most people have experienced personal engagement with their work. You know the feeling when you wake up in the morning with energy and look forward to throwing yourself into the challenges ahead. When your work adds meaning and value to your life it is something to be savoured and appreciated. But for many people this is now a rare occurrence or a dim memory.

Actively disengaged 20%

Characterised by: exhaustion, disconnection, cynicism and ineffective performance

organisational outcomes include more:

  • employee turnover
  • inventory shrinkage
  • absenteeism
  • workplace accidents
  • customer complaints
  • employee health problems
  • employee family conflict
  • workplace team conflict

Passively disengaged 60%

Characterised by: showing up but not really “there” and tends to do the minimum required to get by

organisational outcomes:
average performance by all internal and external measures

this research reveals that passively disengaged employees can be inspired to re-engage through effective management practices

Actively engaged 20%

characterised by:
being fully present – attentive, connected, integrated and focused on job performance
organisational outcomes include improved:

  • employee productivity
  • customer service
  • customer retention
  • employee retention
  • client satisfaction
  • personal well-being
  • workplace health and safety
  • community engagement

The level of employee engagement may be classified into the following three areas:

Someone is actively engaged if they are “fully present.” The whole person: head (cognitive, thinking) heart (emotional, feeling) and hands (physical, doing) is absorbed in what they are doing. They are wholehearted in their involvement. Like a good player on a sports team their attention and focus is fully “in the game.”

Someone is passively disengaged if they are showing up but not really “there.” They tend to do the minimum required to get by, not working against the organization, but not working for it either. If this was a sport they would be in uniform but sitting “on the sidelines” watching the game – sometimes active, sometimes not.

In contrast a person who is actively disengaged tends to be cynical, disconnected, have low energy and perform ineffectively. This person is actively working against the organization. They are “in the crowd” watching the game from the cheap back seats – usually an expert on what should have happened, always willing to criticise or blame those on the field for what they are doing wrong.

This diagram is a summary of a meta-analysis conducted by Dr Stephen Smith reflecting the findings of over 60 university studies (from 30 universities, over 2000 organisations, more than 250,000 participants, between 2001 and 2006). Engagement was assessed using four different instruments in 16 countries and most industries. The highest level of active engagement in these studies was 29% and the lowest was 12%. This study was undertaken as part of a research project conducted within the University of Sydney Faculty of Health Sciences. Copyright © 2006 Dr. Stephen Smith, University of Sydney Faculty of Health Sciences