Labor Day challenge

As workers refocus on jobs, a new Korn Ferry survey finds that up to a third may not be engaged in their work. Can companies help?

Many youngsters are already back in class, and most of their older siblings have returned to hitting the books hard at college. As the Labor Day holiday rolls up on the calendar, now may be a good time for grown-ups to stow the big summer beach and grilling plans, refocus on work, and reconsider a key issue for the fall and beyond: Just how engaged are we as employees, and how much does that matter?

For those in consumer goods, insurance, financial services, communications, and consumer services (e.g., retail, hospitality, leisure), there’s mostly good news, new Korn Ferry Hay Group research shows. The firm has found that roughly three out of four people in these sectors are engaged: They are focused, committed, energetic, and feel a sense of ownership in the organization. They take personal responsibility for the success of their organizations, and maintain a higher level of trust in their leaders.

In contrast, the firm has found that just six out of 10 people working in high tech, the life sciences, and the public sector/not-for-profit are engaged. This analysis is based on engagement surveys from 1.3 million US employees at 139 companies across 15 industries. It reveals that, overall, 71% of the US workforce is engaged—a seemingly high figure, but one that still offers organizations opportunities for beneficial improvement.

“Full-time US employees work nearly 50 hours a week—equivalent to almost six working days,” said Mark Royal, senior principal, Korn Ferry Hay Group. “When you consider that nearly a third of employees are not engaged, that’s a lot of time wasted for both those employees and their employers, who are not getting the full impact of their potential.”

Additional Korn Ferry Hay Group research demonstrates that an engaged workforce has a significant impact on the bottom line, boosting revenue growth up to two and a half times, depending on the level of engagement. “Many factors go into creating a culture of engagement, including empowering and developing employees to make a meaningful impact on the success of the organization,” said Royal. “When this happens, employees will stay on the job and be productive, and their employers will reap the benefits.”

The study’s composite engagement scores are based on responses to several questions, including: “Given your choice, how long would you plan to continue working for the company?” Perhaps surprisingly, the largest percentage (64%) of employees across industries said “more than five years.” In contrast, only 18% of employees said they plan to stay two years or less.

Consumer goods and industrial goods are the two industries with the highest percentage (74% each) of employees who said they would stay on the job more than five years. Consumer services and communications are the two industries with the lowest percentages: 51% and 54%, respectively.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average US employee stays on the job an average of 4.6 years.

“Leaders who are successful in keeping their best people will need to foster a positive view of future company prospects and opportunities for individual growth and development, focus on structuring work environments to support employees’ success in their roles and leverage employee input to promote high levels of effectiveness, and reinforce the balance between what employees contribute and what they get back from the organization in return,” said Royal.