Economic Concerns Changing the Predictors of Employee Engagement

Minneapolis, MN, March 30, 2011 — Modern Survey’s latest study of employee engagement levels in the U.S. workforce has revealed a new trend which provides some salient insight into the psychological state of the U.S workforce. Employees’ faith in senior leadership is now showing to be more closely associated with engagement than historically strong drivers such as recognition/appreciation and personal accomplishment. Additionally, the study validates the connection between five specific HR practices and actual returns in terms of increased employee engagement levels.

In the most recent iteration of this bi-annual study, Modern Survey found the survey item, “I have confidence in my company’s senior management,” to be the most highly associated with individual respondents’ engagement levels. “My company is headed in the right direction,” and “I have confidence in the future of my company,” ranked third and fifth, respectively, making the top five predictors of engagement heavily weighted toward faith in the overall health and direction of the organization.

One theory our analysts have posited for this shift relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model. Modern Survey Senior Consultant Bruce Campbell says, “If an employee’s basic needs are not met, the elements higher up in the model become much less important. If an employee is worried about their organization going out of business, they probably don’t have as much concern about the amount of recognition they receive from their manager, or the sense of personal accomplishment they get out of their work.”

The last two iterations of this study have also included questions to determine the effectiveness of specific HR practices in promoting cultures of high engagement. Uncovered in August 2010 and validated in the most recent study, Modern Survey has found five practices which have a substantial pay-off in terms of higher engagement scores.

• Does your company have a clear set of values that most employees know about and understand?

• Does your company regularly measure customer satisfaction and share customer satisfaction information with employees?

• Does your company continuously measure quality and regularly communicate quality metrics to employees?

• Have you received a performance appraisal in the last twelve months?

• Have you attended at least one company-sponsored training session/event within the last twelve months?

There is a dramatic difference in engagement between employees of organizations that do all five of these practices and those that do not. Of respondents that said their organization does all five things, 27% were fully engage, while only 7% were disengaged. Of respondents whose organizations did less than all five, only 7% were fully engaged while 36% were disengaged. Most strikingly, of those respondents who said that their organization does none or even just one of the five practices, not a single one was fully engaged and disengagement was over 65%.

One important implication of this data is the idea that the pay-off from implementing these practices depends on the thoroughness and quality of their implementation. It’s not enough to simply have a set of values; you also have to communicate them effectively. Similarly, measuring quality or customer satisfaction is good, but doing it regularly and sharing the information with employees is much better. As Campbell advises, “If you are going to do these things, you ought to do them right and reap the full benefit. The advantage in terms of higher employee engagement levels is clear.”

For additional details of the study please visit:

About the Study
Modern Survey began conducting this study in August 2007 to a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. working adults (18+ years old) who match census data in terms of age, gender and region. In August of 2010, additional questions were introduced to gauge the impact of specific HR practices on engagement levels. This was conducted to determine benchmark levels for organizations that strive for excellence, rather than comparing to an industry mean. In February 2011, multiple regression analysis was performed to determine which survey items had the closest correlation with the engagement mean – responses to these identified items are most significantly associated to overall engagement.

About Modern Survey
Modern Survey is a human capital measurement company. Providing a robust suite of proprietary technologies combined with an array of consultative services, Modern Survey helps organizations manage talent throughout the employee lifecycle, measure and evaluate customer satisfaction and gain insight into changing markets. Modern Survey products and services have spanned 100 countries on six continents in over 30 languages. Through direct and partner channels, Modern Survey’s solutions have been used by more than 500 companies, over 85 of which are among the Fortune 500.


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