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Stop your workers from 'quitting in their seats'

Sharon Florentine | July 26, 2016
New research shows that while your employees might be with you physically, they may have checked out mentally and emotionally.

Working hard? Or hardly working? A new report from HR and technology consulting firm CEB's Global Talent Monitor shows that, while U.S. workers intend to remain at their current jobs for at least another year, only 22 percent are showing high discretionary efforts and the remainder are doing less in their role. In other words, employees are "quitting in their seats."

As organizations struggle to attract and retain talent, engagement becomes a much more important metric. According to the 2016 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study of the 7,096 HR and executives surveyed, 48 percent of respondents say engagement is a major area of focus in 2016. "Employee engagement, like culture, has become a CEO-level issue. Companies now compete to win 'best place to work' surveys and monitor social media carefully. There is an escalating war to design great workspaces, provide flexible benefits and create great corporate cultures in an effort to drive higher engagement. Nearly nine in 10 executives, or 85 percent, in this year's survey rated engagement as an important (38 percent) or very important (48 percent) priority for their companies," according to Deloitte's research.

High performance

Engagement is important because it's a major performance differentiator, says Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at CEB Global, an organization that focuses on helping businesses drive corporate performance. Organizations are learning the hard way that it's not enough to have roles filled, they need to be filled with motivated, productive and engaged employees.

"What used to just be a talking point about 'having the best people' has become a real action item for organizations. They can't just say it, they have to mean it. What we see in our research is that when organizations have an engaged, productive workforce, they tend to outperform the competition; not just top line but bottom line, customer satisfaction, innovation, all those metrics," Kropp says.

Economic uncertainty and skepticism about the slow state of economic recovery are major contributors to the "quitting in their seats" problem, Kropp says. After the financial crisis in 2008, many organizations eliminated layers of middle management roles to cut costs and ostensibly increase efficiency. Today, that means fewer opportunities for workers to move upward from their current roles.They're not being promoted as often or even seeing annual pay increases.

"So, of course, they're thinking, 'Well, I don't see a path to promotion. And if I just show up and don't overextend myself, I'm still getting paid. Why should I go above and beyond?' They aren't seeing any upside to working harder. There's also the very real possibility that, even if they did find a new job at a new company, that if the economy took a nosedive again, they'd end up being laid off since they were the 'new guy or gal,'" Kropp says.


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