As we present the findings from the second annual Engage for Success (EFS) engagement survey, we find ourselves at a critical juncture. Our inaugural report in 2022 revealed significant drops in employee engagement, with only minimal recovery. Findings from  the 2023 survey show a troubling stagnation in engagement levels, mirroring concerning trends seen across reports on productivity,  wellbeing, and economic activity.

Reports from leading think tanks continue to underscore declining levels of trust and heightened employee unrest, painting a concerning picture for the future. Despite the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, engagement levels have not improved, remaining significantly below  pre-pandemic levels. It is clear that the UK workforce is facing persistent challenges and that is impacting organisational performance. This stagnation is alarming as we know that it is engaged employees who are more likely to contribute innovative ideas, collaborate  effectively with colleagues, and deliver good work consistently.

They are also more resilient in the face of challenges demonstrating greater commitment and adaptability. These issues are important to understand, especially when set against the backcloth of the challenges the UK economy faces, and this report sheds some light on how we can change this picture. With responses from over 3,000 respondents, the survey provides a unique insight into employee  engagement from a representative sample of the UK working population. Data was gathered using an independent online survey  platform, providing an unbiased and authentic representation of employee sentiments and experiences.

Our data highlights a critical issue; the importance of senior leaders and managers prioritising the people issues in their decision making process. Respondents who felt that their leaders and managers adequately prioritised their understanding of the people, their needs and challenges, and the support they need to give their best reported significantly higher engagement scores. This demonstrates that fostering a culture of care and responsiveness can lead to improved organisational outcomes.

Organisations that prioritise wellbeing and offer positive wellbeing resources and support, foster flexible working environments, and  invest in the development of their employees, tend to see higher engagement scores. However, data also reveals troubling disparities across respondents and a clear connection between low engagement scores and higher levels of unmanageable job stress and presenteeism. The cost-of-living crisis further exacerbates these challenges, with over a third of respondents distracted at work due to personal financial concerns. This financial strain contributes to increased job stress and highlights the interconnectedness of economic stability and employee engagement.

For the UK to achieve the growth levels it aspires to, it is critical that we unlock the potential of all our employees, and the research  findings indicate what we must do to achieve this. We must ensure our leaders and managers sufficiently prioritise the people issues  when making important decisions.

We know from the original Engage for Success report to the government and the subsequent decade's worth of experience, that  organisations need to address the four 'enablers' of higher levels of employee engagement - there must be a strategic narrative that employees 'own'; line managers need to treat their people as human beings, not human resources; employee voice must be sought and acted on; and finally, there must be a sense of integrity in the workplace where the values on the wall are reflected in the day-to-day  behaviours of leaders and employees alike.

It is critical in these rapidly changing and uncertain times, that by investing in their workforce, businesses can build resilience and  adaptability and promote sustainable growth.

Addressing these challenges does not need to involve significant expenditure for individual organisations or indeed for our country, rather it requires a belief and a commitment. A belief that employees are indeed the most valuable asset and viewing them as solutions to challenges rather than problems to be managed. This commitment involves sufficiently prioritising the people issues when making big decisions.

It is important to address efforts to increase levels of employee engagement through the lens of the four enablers. By doing so, we can  unlock the full potential of the UK workforce, driving both economic and social progress. However, this responsibility does not rest solely on the shoulders of organisations. Policymakers must also prioritise strategies that foster a culture of engagement and empower  employees to thrive. We encourage you to study this important research and to decide for yourselves how it might apply to your  organisation and more importantly what it might encourage you to do. Download the full report here.