Canadian Organizations Struggle to Engage Employees - Low confidence in senior leadership a drag on scores

    July 13, 2016

    Employee engagement scores have remained stagnant since 2010 and in many cases are declining. A new study by The Conference Board of Canada reports that only 27 per cent of employees in Canada are highly engaged.

    "Despite evidence of employee engagement's impact on business outcomes, workplace engagement has remained stubbornly low and relatively unchanged over the last five years," said Ruth Wright, Director, Leadership and Human Resources Research, The Conference Board of Canada. "Organizations need to understand why engagement is so important and which workplace factors can increase it."


    - Employee engagement scores for most organizations have plateaued; only 27 per cent of employees are highly engaged.
    - Confidence in senior leadership is the most influential factor driving employee engagement; it also has the lowest approval rating.
    - Relationships with managers is the second most influential driver but employee approval ratings are higher relative to their assessment of senior leadership.
    - Employee demographics play a large role in employee engagement; long tenured employees and technical professionals tend to be less engaged than new employees and those in non-technical professional roles.
    - Investing in leadership training, encouraging personal and professional growth, and interesting work that allows employees some flexibility and control are among strategies and practices that foster engagement.

    The report, Employee Engagement: Leveraging the Science to Inspire Great Performance, finds that employee engagement scores dropped during the recession of 2008-09 but have failed to rise since then in spite of improved economic conditions. The most engaged employees tend to be those in management, individuals who have been with an organization for less than one year, employees working in small organizations or the not-for-profit sector. Employees with a longer tenure and those who work for mid-sized companies, or in technical/skilled trades, or the federal government have among the lowest levels of engagement.

    The report outlines the seven workplace factors that most influence employee engagement. They are:
    1. Confidence in senior leadership
    2. Relationship with manager
    3. Interesting and challenging work
    4. Professional and personal growth
    5. Acknowledgement and recognition
    6. Relationships with co-workers
    7. Autonomy

    However, workplace factors influence employee engagement in different ways and employers need to develop an understanding of how each of these factors can effect engagement of different employee segments. For instance, while senior leaders have become the biggest factor influencing employee engagement, particularly when it comes to organizational pride and willingness to recommend the organization, the work itself and opportunities for professional growth have the greatest influence on attrition.

    Similarly, people in different occupational areas are also motivated by varying workplace factors. For educators, having interesting and challenging work along with a high degree of autonomy is important. While the engagement of those working in information technology and retail trade are more affected by the relationship with his or her immediate manager.

    The report identifies best practices for improving employee engagement, including: leadership training, decentralized accountability, interesting and challenging work and empowerment are good investments for increasing employee engagement.

    This report, Employee Engagement: Leveraging the Science to Inspire Great Performance, is available via The Conference Board of Canada's e-Library.

    Report author, Ruth Wright, will present the results of the report during alive webinar on September 27, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

    Conference Board of Canada