Chris Russell

3 min read

Recruiting Trends

Workplace Issues

Job Engagement Trends

A new survey reveals that nearly a third of workers report decreased engagement with the connection that they feel to their work. This isn’t a new trend but it foretells ominous signs for talent retention in the coming years.

Remote working is not the only culprit. The Conference Board survey said recently that work location—whether on-site, remote, or a hybrid blend of the two—has no impact on self-reported engagement levels. But some people do feel decreased engagement more than others: Women, Millennials, and individual contributors report lower engagement than men, older generations, and executives.

The survey also finds that even though more workers want to quit, few have actual plans to do so. Perhaps the perception (real or imagined) of a recession next year  has them thinking twice about quitting. This might be a temporary respite for employers that have been steadily losing the balance of power to candidates.

Additionally, having a caring, empathetic leader increased in importance to hybrid workers (56 percent) and remote workers (50 percent) more than those in the physical workplace (44 percent), perhaps a reminder to leaders to be more intentional and inclusive for those who are remote at least some of the time. Leadership has to step up!

The latest workforce survey from The Conference Board polled office workers last month. Respondents weighed in on workplace culture, work location, compensation, and benefits. Here’s what they said;

Many employees are less committed, but they’re working hard anyway.

How do you feel now about your engagement and level of effort compared to how you felt 6 months ago?

  • 30 percent say their level of engagement at work—the commitment and connection that employees feel to their work—is lower than six months ago.
  • Lower engagement isn’t necessarily affecting effort: Only 18 percent say their level of effort has decreased in the last six months. 50 percent say it’s the same; 31 percent say it’s increased.
  • More women, Millennials, and individual contributors report lower engagement and effort than their counterparts.
Engagement levels decreased for all workers regardless of work location/schedule.

How do you feel now about your engagement compared to how you felt 6 months ago?

  • Engagement decreased for 30 percent of fully remote workers, 31 percent of workers with a hybrid work location, and 30 percent for fully in-office workers.
More workers want to quit…

How do you feel now about your intent to stay compared to how you felt 6 months ago?

  • 37 percent say their intent to stay has decreased in the last six months.
  • More women and individual contributors say their intent to stay has decreased than their counterparts.
  • Decreases in intent to stay were similar among generations.
…but few have firm plans to leave any time soon.

Have you voluntarily left your organization for another job since the pandemic began?

  • Only 12 percent are actively planning to leave in the next six months.
A looming recession has some workers thinking twice before quitting.

Given the economic slowdown, are you more or less likely to leave your current organization in the next six months?

  • 29 percent say the economic slowdown makes them less likely to leave their job.

“While these results show that a likely recession may slow some of the high turnover we’ve been seeing, engagement is eroding for many of those who remain,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “For businesses to truly thrive, they should focus on improving employee engagement, no matter the employee’s work location or schedule. Especially during challenging times, previous research from The Conference Board has shown that it is important for leaders to reconnect all workers to the mission and purpose of the organization, as well as to lead with compassion. For workers who are remote or hybrid, this may mean being more intentional about making time for connection.”

A majority of workers now work a hybrid schedule—some days in the office, some at home.

What best describes your current working situation?

  • 55 percent say they have a hybrid work schedule, an increase from 43 percent six months ago.
  • 16 percent say they are hybrid with a schedule that varies week to week.
  • 31 percent of workers are remote, a decrease from 48 percent six months ago.
  • Only 14 percent are in the physical workplace full-time.
  • More women work remotely than men (33 percent vs. 27 percent).
Few businesses are requiring staff to return to the office full time.

How has your organization addressed the shift to remote work and the return to the workplace?

  • Only 6 percent say their companies required all employees to return to the workplace full-time.
  • 35 percent say their companies made working remotely full-time an option.
  • 32 percent of workers surveyed say their companies allow flexible work hours.

“Many workers have reevaluated their priorities since the beginning of 2020 at the outset of COVID,” says Robin Erickson, PhD, Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “Employees are not only demanding to retain the flexibility they gained from being required to work remotely, but they expect genuine and transparent communications to continue from their leaders as well. That’s not to say that pay no longer matters—it’s just not the only thing that matters, or even the most important thing. Now, when looking for a job, workers are weighing a variety of factors unique to them and their needs.”

It is a new era of job engagement brought on by a number of workplace trends. Employers (and their C-Suites) need to listen more closely to what workers want. Those that can improve engagement levels will have a better chance at becoming an employer of choice for today’s job market.

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