Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of Employee Engagement

Bright Horizons


  • One in three employees in the United States (29 percent) is fully engaged and 19 percent are actually disengaged.
  • In the UK and Ireland, one in four employees (23 percent) is fully engaged and a similar amount (22 percent) is disengaged.
  • Eighty-five percent of engaged employees indicate that they plan to stay with their employer.
Engaged employees are enthusiastic and proud of their unique contributions to their organization. They aren't just present in the physical sense; their hearts are in their work. Retaining highly engaged employees is a win-win for the employee and the employer; the employee is highly productive and proud of his or her work and organization, and the employer's bottom line benefits from holding on to these productive, happy employees. A Blessing White study entitled 'The State of Employee Engagement 2008' takes a look at who's engaged and who's not and the factors that influence job satisfaction and performance.

Engagement Around the World

While North Americans are among the most engaged employees (surpassed only by India), the study found that fewer than one in three employees in the United States (29 percent) is fully engaged and 19 percent are actually disengaged. Blessing White took a closer look at the UK and Ireland and uncovered that one in four employees (23 percent) is fully engaged and a similar amount (22 percent) are disengaged.                

The most common factor linking these respondents to their level of job satisfaction was 'more opportunities to do what I do best,' followed by career development and training. Engaged, Honeymooner, or Crash and Burner? Blessing White's study determined five levels of engagement and revealed the prevalence of each segment in North America.

Employees generally fall into one of these five engagement buckets:

  • The Engaged: These employees show high contribution and high satisfaction and are at an apex where their personal and organizational interests align. They find great satisfaction in their work and plan to stay with their employer for the long haul.
  • Almost Engaged: This group, while consisting of high performers, show medium contribution and are more likely to be lured away to greener pastures if their employers don't actively work to keep them engaged and feeling appreciated.
  • Honeymooners and Hamsters: These employees are working hard, but in effect are spinning their wheels. They may be satisfied in their jobs, but their contributions are low and they may feel underappreciated or overlooked at times.
  • Crash and Burners: Having low satisfaction in their jobs, these employees feel bitter and may be vocal about their dissatisfaction. These employees may be overworked and feel exhausted and that they are pulling more than their fair share of the weight.
  • The Disengaged: Disengaged employees are not just bad apples or lousy workers, they are disconnected from organizational priorities and feel underutilized and 'stuck? in their position with low prospects for advancement. With one foot already out the door, they are skeptical and not aligned with their employer's goals and often are actively seeking alternate employment.

Engagement Levels in North America; To Stay or To Go

It's no secret that there is a strong correlation between engagement and retention. Employers with disengaged employees (high levels of honeymooners, crash and burners, or disengaged employees) will see much higher turnover rates, making a significant dent in their bottom line. Eighty-five percent of engaged employees indicate that they plan to stay with their employer, while just more than a quarter (27 percent) of disengaged employees plan to stick with their current employer.

Why do employees stay or go? Blessing White's research found that fulfilling work drives retention and satisfaction. One in three engaged respondents selected 'my work, I love the work I do' as their top reason to stay with their company, which was more than twice the second-tiered reason to stay: 'My job conditions' I have flexible hours, a good commute, etc. Topping the list of satisfaction drivers were 'opportunities to do what I do best' at 28 percent, and 'career opportunities and training' at 25 percent. Engagement Boosters The complexity of employee engagement and the many moving parts of the equation make for a challenging strategy to retain the best and the brightest. The most successful organizations do not sporadically applaud or acknowledge employee engagement and contributions; they make it an ingrained part of their day-to-day culture and ensure that it is an ongoing priority. Employers of choice take a multifaceted approach to address areas of concern, to ensure equity across company lines, and to improve engagement across the organization.

  • Maximize managers. Weed out the bad managers and hold your strong managers accountable for coaching and development. Make sure that the managers themselves are engaged, so they can lead by example and help their team picture what full engagement looks and feels like.
  • Align. Ensure everyone throughout your organization understands the bigger picture and how they contribute to the organization's overall success. Keep everyone, regardless of rank or location, on the same page and working towards a collective goal or vision.
  • Clarify and support. What does 'career' mean in your organization? What do career paths look like? Help employees clarify what they want and provide tools to help them achieve it. Focusing on development and opportunities to leverage unique skills emphasizes what a career in your organization entails over the long and short term.
  • Culture, culture, and more culture. Building a solid impermeable company culture doesn't happen overnight; it takes deliberate thought and action. Invest in managers to support and maintain the company's vision and make your unique culture visible to employees, either through various communication vehicles, such as newsletters or e-mail blasts, special events, catch phrases or core company principles, even in day-to-day conversations.
  • Take action. Develop measurement strategies to gauge your employees' engagement levels and keep your finger on the pulse of the employee population through surveys and focus groups. But it's important to avoid 'analysis paralysis,' when the data is overanalyzed and ultimately slows down progress. Take data at face value, and take action.
To learn more about this Blessing White study and other business and workplace research and intelligence, visit
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About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
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