According to Aon Hewitt's 2016 Trends in Global Employee Engagement survey, the average employee engagement score in Asia Pacific has risen by 5% compared to last year. At a time when leaders are challenged to drive better business performance through their people, this seems like a major respite—on the surface. But organisations have to dig deeper to truly understand the root of this. Therefore, the real question to ask: Is your engagement score increase real?
Net score doesn’t reflect movement in individual engagement
Evaluating net movement in engagement hides movement across employee segments and in individual employees. Individual employee engagement is typically volatile from year to year, even month to month and day to day. A deep-dive into the scores of most companies shows that a significant percentage of the employee population has shifted from engaged to passive or disengaged.
Let's take an Aon Hewitt client as an example. While the organisation's net engagement score shows a 2% increase, in itself, that score doesn't say much. On looking closer, it translates to 15% of employees shifting from passive or disengaged to engaged; and 13% of employees shifting from engaged to passive or disengaged—an important finding for the organisation, and one that will shape their decisions on their next course of action.
Economic factors make an impact
The rate of economic growth has a tendency to moderate engagement scores. In moderate-growth markets where GDP shows an upward trend, an increase in engagement score is often due to economic tailwinds and the availability of stronger business opportunities—rather than actions taken by the organisation itself. In high-growth markets where GDP rises continuously, employers react by freeing up human capital investments—yet engagement levels still fall. As such, a rise in engagement score should not be seen in isolation to actions taken by business leaders.
Changes in the workforce affect overall scores
Organisations with more than 10% new workforce in a single year are likely to see higher engagement scores. In a typical employee life cycle, individual engagement is high for the first 1 to 2 years before tapering slowly for the next 3 to 4 years and rising again.
While an increase in overall employee engagement scores is great news for any organisation and any market, it should never be taken at face value. This is because employee engagement is so much more than just managing a score. Business and HR leaders must identify and review whether what they’re seeing is a true increase in engagement levels, and if so, the reasons behind it—in order to change what’s wrong, and more critically, keep doing what’s right.
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