A concerning 64 percent of HR professionals in the United Kingdom have conceded that employee engagement within their organisations has either plateaued or worsened in the last 12 months.
Only 36 percent reported improvements in employee engagement, according to the recently released State of Employee Engagement Report 2023/24 by WorkBuzz. The comprehensive report draws insights from the responses of over 400 HR professionals across the UK.
The study highlights a notable downward trend, with 24 percent of HR professionals noting a decline in engagement at their organisations.
This figure marks a significant increase from 18 reported a year ago. The findings coincide with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis in the UK and a discernible decrease in employee listening practices.
Merely 17 percent of organisations employ regular ‘pulse surveys’ to gauge employee sentiment on a monthly or quarterly basis, a stark drop from the 33 percent recorded in 2022.
A step backwards
Steven Frost, CEO of employee engagement specialist WorkBuzz, expressed his concern, stating, “After much progress since the pandemic, there’s been a worrying backwards step in terms of employee engagement and active listening over the past 12 months.” He attributed this decline to organisations prioritising short-term, ‘harder’ business outcomes such as retention, performance, and productivity, while simultaneously decreasing the frequency of employee feedback mechanisms.
Frost emphasised the counterintuitive nature of this approach, explaining, “When employees feel listened to, they are more likely to stay in their jobs for longer and be high performing.”
The report advocates for a shift in perspective among HR professionals, urging them to position employee listening as a strategic tool for driving retention and business performance, rather than a mere soft engagement initiative. For instance, engagement surveys can play a pivotal role in uncovering the reasons behind employee disengagement, ultimately helping organisations formulate effective action plans.
A “thriving culture”
Frost concluded, “The only sustainable way to retain great people that choose to go the extra mile is by creating a thriving culture. Neglecting the employee voice risks undermining this, especially in a rapidly changing world with evolving employee expectations and a wave of new AI-technology. When times are tough, it’s crucial to spend more time rather than less time listening to your employees as they’ll often provide the answers to your organisation’s toughest business challenges.”
As organisations grapple with these challenges, the report serves as a wake-up call, urging a renewed focus on employee engagement strategies to ensure a resilient and thriving workforce in an ever-evolving business landscape.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.