Have we hit bottom yet?

No, we're not talking the bottom of the bear stock market. We’re talking about the state of employee engagement in businesses around the world. 

So many companies these days throw around the words "customer experience," and yet the experiences they provider internally — in their workplaces — are stagnant at best to many of their workers. The drumbeat of research on the dreary topic continues.

Not Really Present

The latest is data from the Global Talent Monitor of best practices monitoring firm CEB, which show that employees are "quitting in their seat" around the world, as the research authors suggest. 

It’s their way of describing employees who are physically present in their jobs but mentally in la-la land (or on Instagram). 

Looking at CEB's latest numbers (for the third quarter of 2015), we see a juxtaposition of two trends. 

The "intent to stay" score (measuring how many employees intend to look for a new job within a year) is at its highest in a year (35.1 percent), while the "discretionary effort" score (measuring employees willing to help out beyond their job description) is gradually eroding over the past two years (now at 17.5 percent) sizable

CEB experts point to a lukewarm economy that discourages job-seeking mixed with a baseline reality of poor career prospects.

Lookin’ at Employee Engagement

CEB's Global Talent Monitor reports on global trends, but they mirror much of what experts see in the US, like Gallup. The research firm monitors employee engagement on a daily basis, and as of 10:02 p.m. EST on Jan. 28, 2016, Gallup’s score stood at a lowly 31.9 percent of Americans engaged on the job. 

(The bright spot, if you're looking for one, is that US engagement is higher than the rest of the world's, which stands at 13 percent of the workforce.) 

Gallup's other numbers paint in shades of dark gray  and offer more detail into what is a not-so-rosy painting of the American workplace, such as that 54 percent of Americans would leave their current jobs for better pay.

Wait a second ... is that a lot? Gallup’s stat measures employees willing to leave their job for 20 percent raises or less. 

And at 20 percent, that raise is no laughing matter. That's a sizable chunk difference in a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly paycheck, and you would think you would have to be pretty content at your current job not to jump ship for that. You would expect more than 54 percent of everyday people would leave one employer for another for that kind of pay hike.

Perhaps the painting is not so dark, and not so clear.

The employee engagement picture clouds again when you keep sifting through more data. Aon Hewitt's 2015 employee engagement report, for instance, scored employee engagement in North America in 2014 at 66 percent (62 percent across the globe). Obviously, Aon Hewitt’s score is more lenient than Gallup's scoring system.

Still, conclude the authors, "The average trend is that the work experience is deteriorating more than it is improving."

Learning Opportunities

Workers may be engaged, but most do not feel empowered.

More Evidence

That same ambivalence can be seen in the 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report from Quantum Workplace, which found employee engagement at 65.9 percent ... which was an eight-year low. It marks a "slight shift toward uncertainty," the authors concluded.

So what are employers supposed to do with such a muddled picture of their workforces?

It makes sense that perhaps many of the same tactics needed to handle CX can be used to employee experience, in that it takes a segmented, not-one-size-all-approach; leadership to drive it; and good communication.

CEB's experts advise companies to communicate with employees about how great their current role is in developing them into better professionals, as well as their expectations for success in that role. 

Companies should also work to create alternative career development opportunities that will please different kinds of employees, all while traditional ladder-climbing moves become harder to find.

Just like customers shouldn't be treated as mere dollar signs, employees ought to be shown commitment and valued, suggested the Quantum Workplace researchers.

And what is always certain is that great leaders, committed to great things, can always make a difference in a constituent's experience, whether that be for a consumer or an employee. 

Worker engagement drivers numbers one, two, three, four and six in the Quantum study involved leadership that can be trusted and counted on to deliver a great experience.

Title image by Sara Aho

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