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Oct 21, 2011

The topic of employee morale and employee engagement is much in the news as of late.

I can’t say I’m surprised. With the current state of the economy those still employed, while grateful for the work, are likely near the end of their ropes.

Why? Simple. Though company profits are at near record highs, company leaders are not hiring.

I’ve read countless articles both in Europe and the U.S. about the sheer exhaustion and sense of hopelessness among employees who know they took on the work of one or more colleagues who were laid off – and they continue to perform those multiple jobs.

Research out of the UK and the U.S. show the truth in this.

  • “This latest Happiness at Work Index, a regular barometer of workplace morale, shows that employee happiness has steadily decreased during 2011; with the percentage of workers reporting high levels of morale falling from almost half (46.6 percent in January to two fifths (40.6 percent) in March to today’s figure of just 36.5 percent.” (Badenoch & Clark, reported in HR Review)
  • “The overall picture of employee engagement in the UK is lagging in 2011, according to the global Perspectives survey. The UK fell four places in the global engagement rankings to 17th. (ORC International, reported in the UK’s HR Magazine)
  • “70 percent of employees are now either disengaged or under engaged at their job – a record high number since Modern Survey began tracking these numbers in 2007 before the recession started. Additionally, the number of fully engaged employees has dropped to a record low of just 8 percent. Compared to one year ago when 15 percent of the workforce was fully engaged, the most recent data demonstrates a profound deterioration in the number of workers who are fully committed to their work and to their organization.” (U.S. research from Modern Survey)

Aside from the sheer drop in engagement and morale alone, the Modern Survey report revealed two other unsurprising, but concerning, trends.

  • Across job levels, pay structure and company size, a fifth of workers are currently looking for a new job. This mirrors the results found in the Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker September 2011 report, which revealed more people are looking to leave their companies now (38 percent) than in February 2011 (36 percent).
  • Employee “belief in the future of the organization” has dropped from 48 percent in 2010 to 34 percent today.

What can you as a leader, manager or HR pro do?

  1. Look closely at the work responsibilities of employees who have taken on the roles of those who were laid off. How can you reduce responsibilities to a reasonable level or make a strong case for hiring more support.
  2. Rebuild employee trust in the organization through clear, frequent communication of what the company is doing today and plans to do in the future to both succeed in the market and appreciate employees for their efforts.
  3. Evaluate your company culture to see what changes need to be made to encourage stronger relationships between people. Building such a team culture helps create horizontal loyalty – the connections between employees that get the work done.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

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