CEOs Have Some Work to Do to Boost Worker Engagement

Almost a third of American workers aren't actively engaged in the workplace, a new study shows, presenting opportunities and challenges for CEOs grappling with a nationwide slump in productivity.

employee engagementAn analysis by executive recruitment firm Korn Ferry found that 71% of U.S. workers are engaged—a term that denotes a worker’s enthusiasm for their job and likelihood they’ll stick around and proactively advance their employer’s interests. The analysis was based on surveys from 139 companies and 1.3 million workers across 15 industries.

Full-time employees in America work about 50 hours per week, or around six working days, according to Korn Ferry Senior Principal Mark Royal.

“That’s a lot of time wasted for both those employees and their employers who are not getting the full impact of their potential,” Royal said.

Earlier in August, a U.S. Labor Department report said productivity in the U.S. fell for a third straight quarter as volatile markets deter businesses from investing. Looming U.S. presidential elections are adding a new layer of uncertainty for leaders trying to figure out whether it’s safe to start spending more on staff and equipment.

“An engaged workforce boosted revenue growth by up to two-and-a-half times.”

The rewards for CEOs who are able to inspire enthusiasm from their existing employees are plenty: Korn Ferry’s analysis found an engaged workforce boosted revenue growth by up to two-and-a-half times, depending on the level of engagement.

For those companies that can’t excite their workers, the cost can be significant. An analysis released this year by the Project Management Institute, for instance, found that $122 million is wasted for every $1 billion invested in America due to poor project performance.

Boosting employee engagement need not just be about raising pay, however. CEOs also can motivate workers by making discussions around career development a top priority, offering access to training opportunities and setting clear and transparent performance targets.

Other perhaps less discussed measures can include sharing crucial company information with staff as much possible and trying not to sugar-coat tough assignments, according to a recent report by human resources consultancy Robert Half.

Industries identified as the most engaged in Korn Ferry’s analysis included consumer goods, insurance and financial services, which, between them, recorded an average score of 74%.

The high-tech industry was at the bottom of the pile, registering an engagement rate of just 64%. The life sciences and public sector/not-for-profit industries also faired relatively poorly.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events