At E3, we survey thousands of employees all across North America every year, and we’ve been collecting data on engagement for over 8 years. Our 28-question survey tool gets to the heart of company engagement and leader effectiveness by identifying key strengths and critical shortfalls in performance, behaviors, and productivity.

After all this time collecting valuable data on the engagement trends in an organization, what are we finding? Let’s dive in.

Overall Engagement Trends

When we measure engagement, the results usually look like a bell curve. The Actively Disengaged and Somewhat Disengaged employees fall on the left side of the bell curve, and the Actively Engaged and Engaged are over on the right.

Based on our 2017 global data, we find 53 percent of employees fall into the disengaged category, on average.

On average, 53 percent of employees fall into the disengaged category.

  • 15% are Actively Disengaged
  • 38% are Somewhat disengaged

The remaining 46 percent are in the engaged category.

  • 31% are Engaged
  • 15% are Actively Engaged

With more than half of employees globally disengaged, these numbers may seem discouraging to managers. However, it is not only possible – but certain – that with the right interventions, managers can make remarkable improvements to these numbers.  

Year One

The first year we complete an engagement survey, we usually see 37 percent of employees are engaged and 63 percent of employees are disengaged. Again, many managers find these numbers startling. However, as referenced in Measuring the Right Things, we almost always see improvements year-over-year as a result of new engagement efforts and simply from the act of measuring.

Year Two & Beyond

The second year we measure engagement, we find 48 percent of employees are engaged and 52 percent of employees are disengaged.

By the third year, 59 percent of employees are engaged and 41 percent of employees are disengaged.

By the fourth year, we see, on average, that a whopping 65 percent of employees are engaged and 35 percent of employees are disengaged!

The most important trend to look for is each company’s growth and improvement internally, not how they compare with others. There are some very popular surveys used nationwide where organizations are benchmarked against each other. We have found that while companies love participating and sharing their results when they’re at the top of the pile, they lose enthusiasm as they drop down the totem pole of popularity. What’s most disheartening in this process is that they often are making great strides internally but their success is overshadowed by their public standing against other organizations. The most important measure of your culture – the one with the biggest impact on the lives of your specific employees – is what it feels like to show up to your workplace everyday, not how much better or worse your culture is than your competitors.

Engagement by Tenure

Our data shows that employees with the least amount of tenure, those who have worked for their current company from 0-3 months, are the most engaged segment. This is common, as new employees are eager to prove themselves and make an impact in their new position. This honeymoon phase is an important part of an employee’s experience. The better managers onboard and engaged new employees well, the longer their peak engagement levels will last.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we see lower levels of engagement for those employees with a tenure of 10-20 years. These employees have been at their jobs for a long time; and they’ve most likely seen the good, bad, and ugly of the organization in the last decade or two.

This group poses a lot of potential for managers because their tenure can make them experts, and potentially great mentors, for the newer employees. If you lead any team members who fall into this tenure category, be intentional with them. Talk to them about their ideas. Challenge them with new responsibilities. Encourage their professional development so they continue to grow and avoid stagnation.

Engagement by Generation

In the first year of a survey, Millennials lead the way on engagement, trending higher than Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation. However, that shifts by year three, when we see Gen X topping the engagement levels in our data.

Time will tell how Gen Z, our newest entrants to the workforce impact engagement levels by tenure. As more Millennials move into leadership roles, we’re likely to see shifts in their engagement (and maybe those they lead!), as well.

As we talked about in Leading a Multigenerational Workforce, no matter the generation, all human brains require the same fundamental nutriments of feeling safe and secure, and being validated and recognized.

Key Takeaways

  • It is possible – and proven – that you can move the needle on engagement. We know those first survey numbers can feel discouraging. But we see them improve time and time again.
  • No matter generation or tenure, all our brains work the same. We all need validation and recognition. Leading through neuroscience will significantly increase engagement.
  • Learn more about our survey tool and reach out to us to start the survey process at your company today.