Here’s a reason for low employee engagement that you (probably) didn’t know.

We know that engaged people are a key to success. They are more productive, have fewer sick days, stay longer at one employer, make less errors. There are only upsides to it. The problem is that employee engagement is low across the globe. Too few employees are really passionate about their work. Why is that? We know that about 2/3 of all reasons for a person’s engagement is directly related to their closest boss’s communication and behavior. Does that mean that we can blame everything on poor leadership? I don’t think so.

I have read a number of employee engagement studies from different companies, and I found and eye-openers that I want to discuss with you:

Employee engagement is lower the more job security you seem to have.

The nordic countries of Europe, like Sweden and Finland score really low on employee engagement, while the US and South Africa for instance have a much higher score compared to the nordic countries.

Is this because people in e.g. US enjoy their work more because they have such great leadership? I don’t think so. Are they more engaged because they have a clearer purpose? Hard to believe.

Could it instead be because they are afraid that someone will find out what they responded in the survey? If that is the case then the surveys give us the wrong insights. There is another option and that is that people with less job security are more grateful for what they have. If that would be the reason, then should we all make sure that employees have zero job security? That sounds really stupid to me. I can’t see any trust and loyalty being built that way.

Which ever the case, I find it fascinating that the the lesser people’s job security is, the more they express that they are engaged in their work. Strange… Here is an example: A person close to me worked as a low level nurse. She didn’t have a permanent employment but was instead called in, getting paid by the hours. When we met, I asked her how the job was and she talked about the elderly patients (she was at a home for older people with dementia) with such love and passion, and I could see how she genuinely seemed to enjoy her work.

After a few years she was finally hired full time at that same place. I asked her again how the job was, and the difference in attitude was astounding. All of a sudden, she didn’t mention her patients but instead focused on the mean boss, nagging colleagues, and the hinders and problems of the administration. Same employer. Same colleagues. Same patients. Only one thing differed. Her financial and contractual agreement. I was baffled.

What you think? Perhaps I am confusing satisfaction with engagement, intimidation with motivation? I am curious to hear your thoughts and opinions.

//Antoni Lacinai – Communication culture expert. Speaker, coach, author.

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