Most Canadian workers only moderately engaged

One in 10 workers don't care what happens to company but are happy to stay put: study
By David Brown
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/24/2003


lmost nine per cent of your workforce doesn’t care what happens to your company, but they are happy to stay put anyway, according to a recent survey of 4,500 Canadians.

Organizational performance is driven by people who feel committed to their work and improving the company, says Christopher Hatch, a principal in the Toronto office of Towers Perrin, the firm that produced

Working Today: The Towers Perrin 2003 Talent Report

. For the most part, employees are only moderately engaged (63 per cent) and just 20 per cent are highly engaged.

But fully 17 per cent of the Canadian workforce is disengaged from their work. These are the people who are just putting in time trying to stay out of the way and unnoticed — and more than half of them have no intention of leaving.

Ideally, you want disengaged people moving themselves out of your company, says Hatch. But a large number are not self-selecting out. Therefore, it’s important for employers to find out who is disengaged, he says. Only then can something be done to either increase engagement levels or look at moving them out of the organization. “If you move someone from moderately engaged to engaged, you produce company results,” he says.

Interpretations of the findings depend on if you’re a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of person. The half-full types might emphasize that despite all of the economic turmoil of the past two years, Canadian workers aren’t any more disengaged than they were. The half-empty people would point out that employees aren’t any more engaged than they have been either.

“There was very little change in employee attitudes, when we looked at employee engagement, which we just found fascinating,” says Hatch. Going into the study, researchers had expected that, because of the economic and socio-political turmoil in the past two years, there would be a spike in the number of people who felt disconnected to their work, he says. A lot of organizations have had to make difficult decisions about cutting costs and letting go of staff, but employees appear to be trying to “weather the storm.”

Engagement is more meaningful than satisfaction because people can be happy about being in a job where they can get by without doing anything or making any meaningful contributions. Someone can come to work and have a smile on their face and get along well with everyone, but you can’t assume that means they are engaged, says Hatch.

Engagement levels were highest in the non-profit sector. More than 42 per cent were highly engaged in that sector. That proves engagement is not driven by stock options or large salaries, Hatch says. Rather, engagement comes from people doing work that is meaningful to them and intrinsically rewarding.

The study also shed some light on employees’ feelings about how their employers have handled the tough times and, in particular, their feelings about managers.

Only 42 per cent of Canadian respondents said their manager does a good job of building teams. Just 26 per cent said they have a good idea of what they have to do to be rewarded. Forty per cent said their manager does not act with integrity and honesty.

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