Aon Hewitt Research Reveals Steady Progression in Global Employee Engagement Levels

Career Advancement, Performance Rewards and Organizational Reputation Outrank Pay as 2013 Top Engagement Drivers

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LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., April 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- New research from Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (AON), finds that employee engagement levels and employees' perceptions of their overall work experience are following suit in a majority of regions worldwide[1].

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Aon Corporation (http://www.aon.com) is a leading provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, human capital and management consulting, and specialty insurance underwriting. There are 37,000 employees working in Aon's 500 offices in more than 120 countries. Backed by broad resources, industry knowledge and technical expertise, Aon professionals help a wide range of clients develop effective risk management and workforce productivity solutions.

Aon Hewitt's 2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement annual study, which represents the perspectives of 7 million employees across more than 6,000 companies in 155 countries, indicates that employee engagement levels increased to 61 percent in 2013, up 1 percentage point from 2012 and three percentage points from 2011. Changes in the way employees view their overall work experience across the globe were also revealed.  Perceptions of certain areas like safety and benefits have improved (+6 points and +5 points, respectively), yet there is deterioration in strategic areas like business unit leadership (-4 points), innovation (-2 points) and a compelling employee value proposition (falling 2 points for each of the last two consecutive years).

"A number of factors, including social, demographic, technological and macro-level economic changes, have challenged business leaders to create agile, innovative organizations that can grow," said Dr. Ken Oehler, Aon Hewitt's global engagement practice leader. "But creating this type of organization is impossible without having engaged employees, and companies with low-to-moderate engagement levels will struggle. Our study shows that organizations overcoming business and people challenges are investing in a culture of engagement built on performance focus, strong reputation and superior leadership. These investments are resulting in stronger company performance."

Indeed, Aon Hewitt's study found that high-performing companies (known as Best Employers[2]) drive better business outcomes. Marked by strong leadership, reputation, performance orientation and employee engagement, these companies outperform average companies on sales growth (+6 points), operating margin (+4 points) and total shareholder return (+6 points). They even outperform those companies with high employee engagement alone.

2013 Engagement Levels by Region
With its forecasted population and growth, the region with the largest engagement increases in 2013 was Africa/Middle East (with a gain of 8 percentage points). Asia Pacific's engagement increased for the first time in two years (up by 3 percentage points). North America recovered from its 2012 decline (increasing by 2 percentage points), while Europe remained flat at 57 percent engagement. Though Latin America remains at the top of the engagement leader board worldwide, the region dropped 4 percentage points to 70 percent engagement.

Region

2012

2013

Globally

60%

61%

North America

63%

65%

Europe

57%

57%

Asia Pacific

58%

61%

Latin America

74%

70%

Africa/Middle East

53%

61%

Drivers of Employee Engagement
Additional meta-analysis was conducted across nearly 3,000 organizations in Aon Hewitt's database, representing more than 3 million employees worldwide to identify the 2013 top five drivers of global employee engagement.

Drivers

2012

Global

2013

Global

Perception Change 2012-2013

North America

Europe

Asia Pacific

Latin America

Career Opportunities

1

1

0

1

1

1

1

Managing Performance


2

2 pts.

2

5

5


Organization Reputation

2

3

7 pts.

3

2



Pay

3

4

2 pts.


3

2

4

Communication

5

5

-2 pts.




3

Innovation



-2 pts.


4



Recognition

4


2 pts.

5


4

2

Brand Alignment



-2 pts.

4


3

5

As in past years, career opportunities ranked as the highest driver of engagement. Managing performance ranked second, followed by organizational reputation. Pay, which ranked as the third highest driver of engagement in 2012, dropped to fourth. Communication rounded out the top five.

While the top three drivers in North America were consistent with the global rankings, employees in this region placed more importance on brand alignment and recognition, outranking pay. Managing performance ranked second globally and fifth in both Asia Pacific and Europe.

Millennials Least Engaged Generation
Baby Boomers continue to hold the highest level of engagement, with 66 percent engaged, followed by Generation X (60 percent) and Millennials (56 percent).    

"While differences in geography, culture and generation impact what drives engagement for employees globally, Aon Hewitt's research also shows that there is actually more harmony than discord," said Oehler. "Universally, employees want to be part of an organization that offers career opportunities, provides rewards for performance and has a solid reputation. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding your employees and what drives them, and subsequently tailoring your communication to resonate best with respective groups, will pay dividends in making engagement happen."

Leadership Engagement Highest and On the Rise
Consistent with Aon Hewitt's 2012 analysis, engagement levels continue to vary by job level. Executives and senior managers remain the most engaged with 75 percent engagement globally. This group also saw the largest increase in engagement over last year with an increase of 9 percentage points. Middle managers and frontline employees saw slight increases to 65 percent and 61 percent respectively, while professional employees, such as engineers, lawyers and nurses, maintained their status of having the lowest level of engagement globally, with only 54 percent engaged (decrease of 1 percentage point from 2012).

"Our research shows that raising the bar on employee engagement starts with the leaders themselves," said Oehler. "The continuous rise in executive-level engagement may be a promising sign to come that we'll see an upward shift in engagement levels of other employee segments in the near future." 

Call to Action – Make Engagement Happen
According to Aon Hewitt, evolving economic, technological, demographic and social changes are requiring businesses to rapidly respond to the myriad of extraordinary pressures they now face. Organizations have to look deeper and focus on engaging talent in the right core behaviors. To make engagement happen, Aon Hewitt experts believe organizations must:

  • Understand talent trends. Understanding the global economic and technological trends affecting businesses is essential to building a relevant talent strategy. It's important to be aware of the generational and demographical characteristics of employees, as they will, in large part, define the expectations these employees have of their company.
  • Focus on the behaviors required for performance and business success. Organizations must clearly define for employees what engagement looks like. "For many employers, there is an increasing need for agility, flexibility, speed and an ability to learn and adapt," said Oehler. "Organizations can further encourage behaviors that signify engagement by aligning performance management, learning and development, and rewards and recognition with their expectations for success."
  • Deliver on a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP). According to Aon Hewitt, there is a growing disconnect between what companies require, what they are offering and what employees expect in return. Organization reputation being a top engagement driver provides insight into how employees define value from their company. Aon Hewitt's research shows that companies that deliver on their EVP are more likely to have employees who speak positively about their organization, more likely to retain people, and more likely to cultivate an environment of employees who aim for excellence.
  • Create a culture of engagement.  According to Aon Hewitt's study, an organization's health is based on employees' perceptions of its brand, reputation, performance focus and leadership excellence. To build a culture of engagement, organizations first must understand the composition of their workforce (generational, functional and organizational) and build tailored programs that motivate and inspire the unique makeup of their employee base. "Employers often find that there are basic elements of their HR programs, such as benefits, safety and work life balance, that may be key drivers inhibiting engagement," said Oehler. "Getting the foundation right is often the first step in building a culture of engagement."
  • Build engaging leaders. Previous Aon Hewitt research has indicated that leaders own the employee engagement equation. They make critical decisions on the key factors within an organization that impact employee engagement, such as performance goals, pay and recognition, type and frequency of communication to employees, as well as work process and innovation. "Leaders' decisions can effectively drive or hinder engagement. Leaders who seize the opportunity to engage themselves, engage others and holistically drive a culture of brand, reputation, performance and engagement will help their teams and organizations achieve better business outcomes," said Oehler.

Read Aon Hewitt's 2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report.

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About Aon Hewitt
Aon Hewitt empowers organizations and individuals to secure a better future through innovative talent, retirement and health solutions. We advise, design and execute a wide range of solutions that enable clients to cultivate talent to drive organizational and personal performance and growth, navigate retirement risk while providing new levels of financial security, and redefine health solutions for greater choice, affordability and wellness.  Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource solutions, with over 30,000 professionals in 90 countries serving more than 20,000 clients worldwide.  For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit www.aonhewitt.com.

About Aon
Aon plc (AON) is the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. Through its more than 66,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to empower results for clients in over 120 countries via innovative and effective risk and people solutions and through industry-leading global resources and technical expertise. Aon has been named repeatedly as the world's best broker, best insurance intermediary, reinsurance intermediary, captives manager and best employee benefits consulting firm by multiple industry sources. Visit www.aon.com for more information on Aon and www.aon.com/manchesterunited to learn about Aon's global partnership and shirt sponsorship with Manchester United.


[1] Employee engagement and workforce perceptions data in this report derived from Aon Hewitt's five-year rolling Employee Research Database.

[2] Aon Hewitt conducts numerous regional and market best employer studies. These studies have shown that best employer companies drive consistent long-term performance through organizational cultures marked by strong leadership, performance orientation, brand and, ultimately, employee engagement.

Media Contacts:
Roxanne Pipitone, 847-442-1317, roxanne.pipitone@aonhewitt.com
Maurissa Kanter, 847-442-0952, maurissa.kanter@aonhewitt.com

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