Most Employees are Running on Zero Engagement

According to a recent report by the Energy Project and Harvard Business Review, a study of the “core needs” of employees across four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual entitled “The Human Era at Work”, only 7% of workers feel that their core needs are met at work.

Employee Engagement

The report follows on from a 2012 Towers Watson study which found that “sustainably engaged” employees not only have the willingness to exert extra effort for the benefit of their organisation, but also have “have operating margins almost double those of traditionally engaged employees.” The Human Era at Work report emphasises the additional importance of promoting the spiritual and physical wellbeing of employees to secure their “sustainable” engagement. Read through the study’s main findings across all four dimensions, shown below.

The Physical Dimension

In this dimension, employees should balance “intense effort with renewal”. Renewal comprises “sleep, rest, fitness and nutrition”, and not only outside of work, but also intermittently during the working day. Here are the highlights from the study:

  • Only 49% of respondents take  more than one break during the day
  • Employees who work long hours, defined as at least 55 hours, are less engaged and less focused than their counterparts who work 40 hours or less
  • Respondents who take even a short break every 90 minutes report a higher level of focus, a greater ability to think creatively and a higher level of wellbeing compared with those who take just one break or no breaks

The Emotional Dimension

For the emotional dimension, there are two “critical” factors that fuel emotional energy: enjoyment and satisfaction of work and “a sense of safety and trust”. Here are the key findings:

  • Only 37 percent of employees report being satisfied with their jobs
  • Satisfied employees are 54 percent more able to focus and more than twice as engaged as those who are dissatisfied with their jobs. Job satisfaction is associated with 125 percent more engagement
  • Less than a third of the respondents feel they have the opportunity to do the work that they most enjoy at work
  • Those who don’t have the opportunity to do work they enjoy report 38 percent less focus,49 percent less engagement and are 57 percent less likely to remain in the organisation
  • Less than a third of the employees  report a feeling of safety and trust at work
  • Less than three in ten of the respondents believe they can be honest with their leaders

The Mental Dimension

For the mental dimension, the study focused on the “primary sources of pain” for organisations: focus and prioritization. Here are the main findings:

  • Fewer than two out of ten respondents report being able to focus their attention on one thing at a time
  • Employees with the greatest level of focus are also the most engaged
  • Just over a third of the respondents believe they can effectively prioritize their work

The Spiritual Dimension

Mission and meaning are the core elements of the spiritual dimension investigated in the study. Here are the key findings:

  • Just over a third of the respondents feel connected to the company’s mission. Those who don’t feel a connection with their company’s mission report being 62 percent less likely to remain with their employer and are 45 percent less engaged.
  • Deriving meaning and significance from work was the most impactful of all the variables in the study.
  • Employees able to derive meaning from their work are significantly more engaged, more satisfied with their work and more likely to stay with their employer

Zero Engagement

The prevailing mantra of the Industrial Age: “more, bigger, faster”, needs to change to accommodate a new world with new expectations and new insights into what makes people tick. As the study reveals, employees need to be satisfied physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually at work; when these core needs are met, the results are greater engagement, focus and wellbeing. The study also reveals that the more needs are met, the more people’s performance variables improve. Given the perennial quest for greater engagement and productivity, this study should provide employers with insights to improve employee engagement. By investing their resources in helping employees meet their core needs, employees will be more engaged at work and better able to perform “sustainably” at their best.

Are you engaged at work? Does your employer look after any of the 4 dimensions mentioned above? How does this affect your work? Your thoughts and comments below please...