A few weeks ago, consulting and analyst firm Blessing White released its 2011 employee engagement report. As Christopher Rice, the CEO of Blessing White, states, “This report is designed to move beyond the high-level numbers to provide you with a framework that will help your organization to start moving the needle on engagement.”

Before going on, I think it’s important to address that engagement and collaboration are two different things (in my opinion) but they definitely overlap. Employees who are not engaged can still collaborate, and just because employees collaborate doesn’t mean they are engaged. This report focuses on engagement, as defined below, but does not really address the aspect of collaboration and how it might affect engagement, which I think is quite an interesting corollary.

Five Levels of Employee Engagement

Blessing White defines five levels of engagement which it used as the foundation for the report, shown below.

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It’s interesting that “engagement” in this report is really only centered around two things:

1. Contribution to the company’s success
2. Personal satisfaction in their role

So if you’re satisfied with your role but are not contributing to the company’s success, then you aren’t really an engaged employee, and vice versa.

Personally, I believe that collaboration should fit somewhere within the engagement framework, as employees who contribute to the success of a company and who are satisfied with their role don’t necessarily constitute “engaged” employees. They might be “happy,” but I think that effective collaboration is another variable that should be considered.

Regional Differences in Employee Engagement

According to the study, less than 33% of employees are engaged in North America. 

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The levels here are relatively consistent across organizations around the world with the exception of China. However, for some reason I was expecting much more variance in the results. What’s also interesting to note, however, is that almost 20% of employees are actually DISENGAGED and 43% of employees are not “almost engaged” or “engaged.” Basically this means that just under half of an organization’s employees are barely contributing to the success of an organization.

The Relationship Between Engagement, Collaboration

I find engagement and collaboration very much intertwined and we have seen how collaboration affects business performance in previous reports. Now, what I find interesting is that, in a study conducted in 2009 by Information Architected, engagement was not listed anywhere as one of the business drivers of collaboration. However, “connecting colleagues…” was the #1 business driver.

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I’m not sure if there is a gap here or not, but in a future study I’m conducting, “engagement” is going to be one of the options under business drivers. However, as a Towers Perrin (Global) Report showed in 2007-2008:

Companies with high employee engagement had a 19% increase in operating income and almost 28% growth in earnings per share. Companies with low levels of engagement saw operating income drop more than 32% and earnings per share drop over 11%.”

Other Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

Using emerging collaborative and social tools is a relatively new way to drive engagement but, of course, it is not the only way. Below, we can see what employees believe would help improve their job satisfaction; “more opportunities to do what I do best,” and “career development opportunities” are the top two on the list. Further down we can see that “more resources, greater clarity around what the organization needs me to do and why, development opportunities and training, and a coach or mentor other than my manager,” are the top things employees believe will enhance their performance.

Again, I see opportunities here for how properly deployed collaboration tools can help create the above scenarios.

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The final thing I will take a look at here is trust within the organization which I found quite fascinating:

 

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Employee Engagement, Trust

In North America, employees trust managers 20% more than they trust senior leaders-- and around 50% of employees don’t even trust senior leaders. These numbers are especially high in Europe and North America. Again, I see how effective collaboration would give employees insight into what managers and senior level leaders at organizations are doing and why and could perhaps lead to more trust within the organization. If you don’t trust the people you work with, then collaborating with them is clearly going to be an issue.

The report goes on to cover engagement quite extensively and is definitely worth a read; it’s perhaps the most in-depth and best report on employee engagement I have read to date. While “engagement” per se is not a pool I typically swim in, “collaboration” is, and as I mentioned above, I definitely see how the two fit.

Curious to hear your thoughts. What did you think of the report? Are you aware of any other resources which link engagement and collaboration?