The news is positive; engagement is up, according to the 2012 Trends in Employee Global Engagement report issued by human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt. It was a modest ascent, with 58% of global employees engaged in 2011 compared with 56% in the previous year, but the percentage reverses years of declining levels.
Engagement levels also vary widely by region, with fully 71% of workers in Latin America identified as engaged compared with 52% in North America.
What is engagement, anyway? Aon Hewitt defines it as "the state of emotional and intellectual involvement that motivates employees to do their best work." The company's engagement conclusions are based on analyzing trends of more than 3,100 organizations worldwide against six drivers of engagement -- quality of life, work, people, opportunities, total rewards, and company practices -- each comprising several sub-categories.
Employee perception scores grew in three key areas, including effective leadership at the business unit/division level (61% vs. 54%); people, HR practices creating a positive work environment (53% vs. 47%); and perceiving relationships with customers as rewarding (75% vs. 70%).
On the other hand, they also dropped in three key areas, including innovation (52% vs. 55%) and workplace safety and security (75% vs. 78%). Effective communication, already a low point at 46% in 2010, dropped even further in 2011, to 42%.
With communication among the top five drivers to positively impact engagement, Aon Hewitt noted it provides significant opportunity for improvement.
"Corporate communication is the primary connection point between the majority of employees and executive leadership," says Jenny Merry, UK engagement practice leader. "Messages usually break down at the mid-management or immediate manager level so it is important for the leaders to continue to provide clear messages about business objectives, challenges and what is required of employees."