Employee engagement has risen in the past year, according to Temkin Group research, and those companies with highly engaged employees are reaping meaningful rewards in terms of personnel and profit.

Temkin researchers say engaged employees are three times as likely to suggest improvements to a firm than those who aren't engaged and twice as likely to do something positive for the company, even if it's not expected of them. They are also twice as likely to stay late at work to get something done or help a co-worker without being asked. Moreover, a highly engaged worker is reportedly more than six times as likely to recommend a friend or relative apply for a job at their company.

The study indicates that three-quarters of employees at companies with markedly above-average financial performance are at least moderately engaged. For employers with subpar financial results, it's less than half.

The best news: engagement is up. After tabulating results from surveys of approximately 2,400 full-time U.S. employees from August of last year compared to August 2011, Temkin reports that 57% are moderately or highly engaged, up from 47%.

"It may not show up on any balance sheet, but a highly engaged workforce is one of the most valuable assets that an organization can possess," says Bruce Temkin, a customer experience expert and managing partner of Temkin Group.

Small businesses fare better in the research than the very large - 60% of the populations at companies with 100 or fewer workers are engaged, versus 46% at companies with 10,000 or more employees. Travel and retail firms have the lowest engagement levels; professional services firms and construction companies have the highest.

Temkin says the most engaged employees trend toward older, male, college-educated and African-American. Seventy-five percent of senior executives are moderately or highly engaged, compared with only 46% of individual contributors. The most engaged employees also tend to be financially secure, healthy and physically fit.

Twenty-one percent of surveyed employees say they're slightly engaged, down from 37% in 2011. Nearly one-quarter (22%) say they're disengaged, up from 17% in 2011.

In a separate report, Temkin Group identifies the five I's of employee engagement:

* Inform. Provide employees the information they need to understand the organization's vision and brand values, along with how customers feel about the company.

* Inspire. Connect employees to the organization's vision and values so that they believe those matter and take pride in their job and the company.

* Instruct. Support employees with the training, coaching and feedback they need to successfully deliver the company's brand promises to customers.

* Involve. Take action with employees when designing their jobs, improving work processes and solving problems identified through customer or employee feedback.

* Incent. Use appropriate systems to measure, reward and reinforce desired employee behaviors and motivate employees to give their best.

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