A Snapshot of the Employee Engagement Industry

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Employee engagement is becoming well-known and well-used in HR circles. A tangible metric that speaks to the satisfaction, excitement, loyalty and commitment of the workforce, it is often used as a critical indicator of organizational culture, a warning indicator for turnover, and an outcome metric for talent management efforts.

According to previous Bersin & Associates’ research, 71 percent of organizations measure employee engagement.  As of the latest annual U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' count, there are approximately 100,000 firms in the U.S. that employ more than 100 employees. That equates to 71,000 firms conducting some sort of employee engagement initiative – the parameter for the current U.S. employee engagement market.  

According to our High-Impact HR research, 57 percent of HR practitioners said that their employee engagement metric is the most important indicator of talent management success; for these firms, it is the needle to move to demonstrate HR impact. Yet, according to our report, Employee Engagement: A Changing Marketplace, only 35 percent of HR practitioners thought that their engagement efforts led to positive business outcomes. Quite tragically, only 19 percent of employees are highly engaged according to solution providers DDI.  Here at Bersin & Associates, we thought these statistics warranted further investigation of the employee engagement industry. Which providers played in the field, and what products and services did they offer? Are offerings similar or different? Who is innovating, and how? 

We asked in-depth questions of eight providers who either had notable market share, brand recognition or compelling upstarts. We found the following:

  • Definitions of engagement were varied; but also similar in some ways. Nearly all providers agreed that the spending “discretionary effort” at work was a critical aspect of employee engagement. From there, definitions varied wildly, with elements including commitment, goal alignment, enjoyment, performance, and the antithesis of “burnout” – to name just a few.
  • There is some agreement as to the most important drivers of engagement. Nearly all (89 percent) ask about career advancement, goal-setting and feedback, recognition and non-monetary rewards and training and development in their surveys, suggesting that these aspects of work are the most common drivers of engagement. 
  • Survey comprehensiveness varied. The most comprehensive surveys collected data on 20 aspects of work. Other providers had conducted previous research which allowed them to narrow their focus to the nine aspects of work they found most related to engagement. 
  • Mobile and IVR survey delivery is a value-add. Sixty-three percent of providers offer survey administration on mobile devices, which serves a professional workforce well. Fifty percent can survey using interacting voice response (IVR), automated telephonic surveys which can reach employees in the field.
  • Just a few providers specialize in the largest of implementations. With feet on-the-ground around the world, there are a few providers who are well-equipped to handle international clients with more than 50,000 employees.
  • All providers can offer some kind of “norm”. Providers offer standard, and to a lesser extent, custom and best-in-class normative comparisons in their reports. A lesser proportion includes this in their standard reports. 
  • “Engagement” is becoming more integrated at the cutting-edge. For providers who are re-conceptualizing the role that engagement has to play in organizations, it is integrated with organizational functioning in terms of strategy, sustainability, performance, and potential.

 The Engagement Provider Review includes detailed commentary on a wide variety of provider offerings and performance. I'll be speaking about this research at IMPACT, and the Review is due out in late spring – watch for it!

Jeff Mike

Jeff Mike leads Bersin by Deloitte’s HR Operations and Service Delivery research He integrates rigorous research approaches with his extensive experience leading HR functions to engage diverse practitioners and to generate actionable knowledge Jeff also teaches HR to business people and business to HR people, formally at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and informally in organizations through his boundary spanning, consultative approach to problem solving and capacity building.

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