What is a Good Employee Engagement Score?

Paul Hebert Audacious Ideas, Employee Engagement, Metrics, Paul Hebert

I’m going to take a different tack on today’s post.  Instead of waxing poetic on a point of HR or employee engagement I’m going to start a discussion and then walk away and let you all continue.

See, I don’t have an answer for the question I headlined this post with. I truly don’t.

What I do have is a list as long as my arm of consultants and vendors who have the answer. (Or say they do.)

At least they say they can improve your employee engagement score.

And I don’t doubt they can.  In fact I’m sure they can.  Through the power of the Hawthorne Effect (debated as true but still held up as fact – sort of like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) almost any change you make in your organization around employee engagement will have some noticeable impact on our engagement scores. It’s inevitable.

In fact I’ve coined the term Hawthorneing™ to communicate the idea of making changes and then saying those changes are the holy grail of engagement.

The Scoring

The issue is this – depending on your source you can see engagement as:

  • Aon 2013 Results – 40% disengaged world wide.
  • Blessing White 2012 Survey Results – 37% not engaged (They use some weird names for their categories so this may be a bit off.)
  • Gallup 2013 Report – only 30% of employee are engaged.

And there are various other reports that say basically the same thing – approximately 40% of our work force is disengaged.

In addition, the percentage of disengaged workers has stayed pretty much the same over the past few years – up a point or two, down a point or two.  Nothing really interesting. Just kinda hanging in there.

Companies and HR people have poured time and treasure into these measures to increase the percentage of engaged employees because the consultants told us that the company would be more successful and employees will get company logo tattoos if you do.  They will not just be engaged but committed!  Your profits will soar!  You will find the 13th crystal skull… you will achieve total consciousness!

But my question is this…

What if 40% is the right number?

What if – no matter what you do – 40% is the best we can hope for?  Sure, we’ll always have the outliers – those companies with ridiculous scores because of brainwashing and excess cash (I did not say Apple but you thought it!).  We’ll also have companies with very, very low scores – also with excess cash but less brainwashing (you thought Microsoft – don’t lie).

What if 40% is the normal set point for employee engagement?

What do you think?

Is engagement low because we don’t do enough to raise it or – no matter what we do to raise the score – on average – over time – will we always hover around 40% engaged?

Remember – on average. Don’t point to one outlier and say “see – that’s what it should be.”