Why are global employee engagement levels climbing? - Preparing you for the future of work.

Why are global employee engagement levels climbing?

After a dip last year, employee engagement around the globe rebounded to an all-time high of 65 per cent, according to Aon’s latest 2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report.

The rebound is largely driven from the biggest markets in Asia and a major surge in engagement in Africa.

Employee engagement on the African continent climbed from 61 per cent of employees to 66 per cent. It’s a remarkable jump when you consider the trends over the past five years. Only half (51 per cent) of all employees were engaged in 2012, whereas now nearly two-thirds of employees are engaged. It is by far the biggest increase in the five regions in this study.

Each of Africa’s five largest economies (South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt) experienced increases in engagement. It is a clear indicator that companies in the region have significantly improved their capabilities for attracting, promoting and retaining the right talent, compared with a few years ago.

Aon’s analysis of more than five million employees at more than 1,000 organisations around the world found that global employee engagement levels rebounded back to 65 per cent in 2017, up from 63 per cent in 2016. The percentage of employees who were highly engaged increased from 24 per cent in 2016 to 27 per cent in 2017.

In the last year, there has been political and economic stability in more mature regions and continued economic expansion in regions like Asia and Africa. Although most companies continue to face some level of disruption and uncertainty, a robust, expanding economy means organisations are typically willing to invest more in people, and that makes the work experience much better for most employees.


employee engagement table 1


According to Aon, improving engagement can pay dividends. Aon research shows that a five point increase in employee engagement is linked to a three point increase in revenue growth in the subsequent year.

The concept of employee engagement is often confused with satisfaction or happiness. But it’s really about an employee’s psychological investment in their organisation and motivation to produce extraordinary results. Companies with above average engagement levels will see better employee productivity, lower turnover rates and higher customer satisfaction scores — all factors that can significantly contribute to improved financial performance.

Regional differences

Aon’s analysis found regional variations in engagement were driven by regional and country-specific economic, political and cultural differences. Africa had the largest increase in employee engagement for 2017. Engagement rose to 66 per cent, up from 61 per cent in 2016. Overall, employee engagement has improved by 15 percentage points in Africa since 2012.

After a three-point drop in engagement last year, employee engagement levels in Asia Pacific bounced back to its highest levels at 65 per cent. Companies in Malaysia and the Philippines increased engagement by four and six percentage points, respectively, while Indonesia improved engagement by 15 percentage points.

Europe has the lowest levels of engagement in the world at 60 per cent; however some European countries saw dramatic improvements in 2017. Among the top improving countries globally, four were European: France (six percentage points), The Netherlands (seven percentage points), Austria (nine percentage points) and Sweden (nine percentage points).

employee engagement table 2

Top global engagement opportunities

According to Aon, rewards and recognition ranked as the strongest engagement opportunity for the second year in a row, with “recognition for contributions” and “fair pay” being the most influencing factors.

employee engagement table 3
There is not a one-size-fits all employee experience that will maximise engagement; the specific drivers will vary by region, by industry, by company and by role. Organisations need to identify the drivers that are most important to their own employee population and then focus on creating the employee experience to yield the best return.

Ken Oehler is the Global Culture & Engagement practice leader at Aon and Gavin Griffin is from Aon Employee Benefits in South Africa.

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