U.S. Leads Global Rankings in Employee Engagement

By Roy Maurer Aug 26, 2013

The United States is a leading country when it comes to employee engagement, according to findings from global market research firm ORC International.

The U.S. ranked third overall, behind India and Switzerland, in ORC International’s 2013 Global Perspectives Survey report, conducted with 7,000-plus employees across 19 countries and nine sectors.

The 19 countries surveyed were Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The nine industries polled were accommodation and food services, government, education and skills, finance and insurance, health care services, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, professional services, and retail and wholesale.

Matt Roddan, director of employee research in the U.S. at ORC International, said: “Our research shows that if employers want to increasingly engage their employees, they need to focus on their approach to innovation, diversity and a healthy workplace. These three areas enhance the measurement of engagement and can provide management with insight to create more effective strategies for employee engagement.”

According to the survey, the U.S. scored well on overall engagement (64 percent engaged)—up 4 points from last year—and ranked in the top quartile for:

  • Diversity (66 percent), defined as inclusive engagement, or the understanding of how an employee’s traits can be mobilized for the benefit of the organization.
  • Innovation (64 percent), defined as creative engagement. “This is the secret ingredient that can push an organization from good to great,” Roddan explained. “To allow this, an organization needs to have an environment where all employees feel motivated to improve the business by thinking outside the box and where this kind of thinking is supported and turned into reality.”
  • Well-being (64 percent), or sustainable engagement, which is a way for companies to protect their future.

One of the key drivers of engagement in the U.S. is workers’ perception that their organization respects individual differences, cultures, working styles, backgrounds and ideas, the ORC found. “This reveals the importance of inclusive engagement and diversity to American employees,” the report said.

Road to Recovery Still Uncertain

The worldwide recession has taken its toll on engagement, as employees bear pay freezes, benefit cuts and layoffs. While most countries surveyed improved their scores from 2012, some of the traditionally stronger nations (India, Canada, Singapore) have stumbled over the effects of slowing economies.

India remains at the top of the rankings in overall engagement (71 percent) but has fallen the most since 2012. For the past two decades, India has had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but this year it has slowed.

Switzerland (66 percent) and the U.S. have moved up and now occupy the second and third spots, respectively, overtaking Brazil (64 percent) and China (63 percent).

Lacking Creative Spirit

The U.K. struggles with engagement (55 percent), especially in innovation, according to the research.

Specifically, the survey revealed that despite performing relatively well in terms of diversity and well-being, the U.K. lags far behind other countries when it comes to innovation. Fewer than half of respondents believe that innovation and creativity are highly valued by their organization, and employees in the U.K. are less likely to believe they would be recognized for coming up with new and innovative ways of working.

More people in the United Kingdom intend to stay with their employer than in 2012, but fewer are motivated to contribute more than is required, according to the report. The biggest drivers of engagement in the U.K. are feeling valued and having confidence in the leadership team.

The biggest declines in the U.K. since 2012 relate to employees feeling like they’re not being heard.

“Fewer people feel inclined to suggest ideas for improvement at work or to speak up and challenge the way things are done,” the report said.

Australia’s Workers Happier Than in 2012

Employees in Australia have become more positive about the company they work for (62 percent), driven by high scores in skill utilization and feeling valued, said Wendy McInnes, ORC International’s director of employee research for Australia.

Australia is also doing well in sustainable and inclusive engagement, but it has a long way to go in terms of creative engagement. “The economic situation in Australia is still turbulent, with many job losses over the past few months,” McInnes noted. “Belts are being tightened, pay freezes are prevalent, and recruitment is on hold.”

Tough Going in Hong Kong

Hong Kong lags behind its regional competitors, including China, despite improved engagement scores (49 percent engaged). The country faces a wide set of challenges, including a huge increase in property prices and the largest gap between the rich and poor in four decades, the ORC said.

“Employee engagement is still poor in Hong Kong, given the tough working conditions many are currently experiencing,” said William To, business development director at ORC International.

“Given that leadership and inclusion are the top key drivers of engagement, employers need to increasingly consider the emotional needs of their staff; otherwise they face losing their workers.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

Related Articles:

What Worries India’s CEOs?, SHRM Online Global HR, August 2013

Multinationals’ Preferred Status Challenged in China, SHRM Online Global HR, August 2013

Employee Engagement High in Sub-Saharan Africa, SHRM Online Global HR, March 2013

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