Although some workplace issues are monolithic, engagement can vary depending on where you look. That’s why we’re breaking down the state of employee engagement in the UK. Which sectors are struggling, and what can we learn from them?

We all know that for the past several years or so, HR directors, managers and CEOs have had the words “employee engagement” rattling through their minds. It’s been scrawled on meeting notes and appeared in the subject line of countless emails. We also know why, with strong levels of employee engagement linked with a raft of business benefits including:

  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Improved staff retention and lower turnover
  • Increased levels of productivity
  • Boosted profitability
  • Less absenteeism
  • Enhanced employee loyalty

Back in 2017, according to Gallup released an iteration of their State of the Global Workforce report. It found that an alarmingly small minority of just 15% of employees felt strongly engaged at work. At the time, Gallup predicted this meant a global loss in productivity amounting to $7 trillion. The US and Canada led the way with 29 and 30% respectively. Employee engagement in the UK lingered around mid-table with 16%.

Since Gallup’s 2017 survey, global engagement gradually started to rise. That is, until the pandemic. Gallup’s 2021 report found that, globally, engagement had fallen in the first time in years amid record-breaking stress levels. And the UK is no exception. The problem is that this is such an unusual event it disrupts our ability to analyse long-term trends.

Manufacturing props up the bottom of the table

According to Gallup, manufacturing workers are the least engaged occupation globally with 75% of employees disengaged as of 2017.

There are likely numerous reasons that explain this one, including the following:

  • The prevalence of cost-control pressures within the industry
  • A talent shortage of skilled workers
  • High levels of historical turnover
  • Lower than average wage levels
  • The geographic spread of a workforce often split across continents

One big consideration with the manufacturing industry is the transient nature of its workers. Most aren’t office-based. That means they don’t necessarily have their own desk, computer, and phone. This means that a multitude of traditional channels for interacting with staff (intranet, emails, newsletters, etc.) aren’t an option.

You need to make firm efforts to offer non-desk staff the same experience. Otherwise, feelings of being less valued and unwanted can prevail. Interestingly though, many of these issues are also faced by those working in the construction industry. And yet, it has some of the highest levels of engagement across the globe!

And it’s worth noting that manufacturing employers could come off pretty badly as a result of the Great Resignation. 1 in 4 UK employees were seeking new work during its peak. And along with construction, tech and logistics workers, manufacturing employees were the most confident about finding new work. This recent shake-up, along with long-standing issues, may be a death blow for employee engagement in the UK manufacturing sector.

Though it’s not all doom and gloom for the industry. There are some shining examples of how engagement can work for the sector, such as New Zealand-based Synlait. They boosted engagement levels dramatically to increase their share price by 100%!

Does the legal sector have an issue with engagement?

A (surprising) recent piece of research by Aon looked at exactly this question to build the first, comprehensive view of the state of engagement within the legal industry. “The State of partner and employee engagement in the legal sector” report came out in late 2018. It brings some fascinating insight into the inner workings of engagement in one of the world’s oldest professions.

The report gathers together insight on 9,500 professional working in the legal sector. Aon gathered input from across a number of roles in the UK, mainland Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. The study ran over an 18-month period from early 2017.

A staggering 48% of respondents from the research felt “˜actively disengaged’ at work. Levels of engagement differed greatly from role to role including:

  • Partners & 66%
  • Trainees & 59%
  • Business services & 56%
  • Associates & 43%

None of those scores are good. But with associates making up a sizable chunk of the legal sector’s workforce, them sitting at just 43% for any level of engagement should be a real eye-opener for the industry. Only 54% of associates felt they were empowered and had autonomy at work, compared to 81% of partners.

These poor scores are bound to impact operations and it seems the legal profession is particularly susceptible to staff turnover. Monster state the average, cross-industry turnover rate in the UK is 15%. But data from the Office for National Statistics shows this could be as high as 40%+ in the legal sector – ouch!

The average cost of legal recruitment sitting at around £40,000. And when all factors are considered (hiring costs, training costs, loss of productivity, etc.), then the legal sector need to look at their employee engagement problem and fix it fast.

Hey teacher, leave those kids employee engagement stats alone

When it comes to employee engagement in the UK, teachers often get the shortest end of the stick. This might not come as a huge surprise, between the constant news stories both here in the UK and globally about the shortage of teachers and the retention difficulties faced by the industry. But engagement in education is pretty abysmal.

Gallup once again carried out research looking at the state of teacher engagement in the U.S. They found that 56% of teaching staff are not engaged in their work. This is a somewhat startling finding when you think that one of the key elements of a teaching professionals work is to actively encourage engagement within their students. How is that possible if the teacher themselves is simply going through the motions?

Specific figures for UK teachers are not readily available at this time. But engagement in the UK is consistently worse than in the US. So, given the stressful conditions of the UK’s education sector, it’s likely a similar or worse story for teachers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Teacher engagement is poor, and the profession is becoming harder and harder to staff. So, what is the potential long-term impact for our future workforce? Surely if we need any industry to lead the way on engagement it’s education?

What can these sectors do to improve engagement?

There are some key elements that are shared across the most successful engagement strategies such as:

  • Open, honest two-way communication between staff and managers
  • A culture of recognition
  • Frequent interaction, feedback, and measurement of engagement
  • Equal opportunity for all staff to raise issues and thoughts

Making these individual criteria part of your employee engagement strategy is key to your business success.

Happily, Zensai offers all the above elements as part of our online platform. It’s even available via mobile devices, and through services like Microsoft Teams and Slack!

With a data-driven, effective employee engagement process built around a weekly check-in, Zensai helps any business open up lines of communication across the organisation. We connect everyone, from the newest recruit all the way to the CEO. This allows staff and managers to recognize success and discretionary effort across the business.

Zensai offers up performance management in the shape of goal tracking/OKR management. We also offer performance reviews and a full suite of analytics backed produced via bespoke machine learning models. That way, you’re easily able to test, measure and engage your staff.

If you’d like to see Zensai in action, then we offer free guided demos, plus the option to trial the software for free. Get in touch with us today to learn more.