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Most reports are wrong; employees aren’t that disengaged.

The media regularly states that 70% of employees are disengaged at work—but that stat paints an inaccurate picture of the American workplace.

Recent employee engagement research shows employees aren’t as disengaged as everyone thought.

The 2019 Employee Engagement Report found that the composite engagement rate in the U.S. is 71%—the opposite of what you’ve been led to believe. This composite engagement rate is an overall temperature check of organizational health—and vital for your business to measure.

Why the discrepancy?

Engagement is usually measured on a scale. Researchers ask employees a series of questions on a scale from 1-5 (one being “strongly disagree” and five being “strongly agree”). If employees select “agree” or “strongly agree” as the response to all questions, they’re considered “actively engaged.” 

On the other hand, respondents who select “strongly disagree” or “disagree” for each question are considered “actively disengaged.”

The most frequently cited employee engagement reports consider the “actively engaged” group as the only engaged portion, leaving out respondents who may have selected a score of four or five for some, but not all, of the questions. 

This is like saying you have to love everything about your job to feel engaged at work. In reality, there’s a give and take to all jobs; while you may love most parts of your job, you may not love everything about it. And that doesn’t mean you’re disengaged at work.

Get your engagement score.

See how your company rates on a scale of 1-100.

What’s the real employee engagement rate?

In our own research, we asked employees the following four statements on a scale from 1-5 (one being “strongly disagree” and five being “strongly agree”).

  • I am proud to say I work for this organization.
  • I would recommend my organization to others as a great place to work.
  • Overall, I am very happy to be working at my organization.
  • It would take a lot to get me to leave my organization.

We found that an average of 71% of employees are engaged across industries.

Between 15%-32% of employees are actively engaged at work, depending on the industry. The highest levels of active engagement were found in the real estate industry (32%), while the lowest levels of active engagement were found in the technology industry (15%). 

Our research also uncovered that less than 10% of employees are actively disengaged. The lowest disengagement rates were found in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (0%), while the highest were found in manufacturing, waste management, and administrative support for professional services (all at 9%). 

Don’t believe everything you read.

When you read statistics online, take them with a grain of salt. Look at who’s conducting the study, the study methodology, the validity of the study, and the complete results. 

Not everything is as it appears—and many companies who cite alarming statistics are in a position to profit off of doing so. 

But do pay attention to your employee engagement.

While a composite engagement rate of 71% may not cause as much concern as a stat like 70% of employees are disengaged, it still warrants attention.

The research shows that roughly 29% of workers are disengaged—either actively or passively

It’s important for business leaders and HR professionals to consider the impact this disengagement is having on their organization. The 2019 CEO Benchmarking Report found that the average organization spends roughly 55% of its operating costs on people-related expenses. Imagine what disengagement could be costing your business.

Take a proactive approach to employee engagement—and disengagement—with talent optimization. The first aptitude of talent optimization is Diagnose. It will help you collect, measure, and analyze critical people data so you can form an action plan to align your people strategy with your business strategy for optimal results.

Help your leaders craft a strong people strategy

Use this guide to act on your people problems.

Greg is the SVP of science at PI.

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