Employee engagement is a hot topic of discussion in the corporate world today. Given that employees are as likely to job-hop for a raise as they are to ask for one, companies need to focus on staying in touch with their employees and their needs or risk losing them altogether. Losing valuable employees directly impacts the bottom line through hiring and training costs, not to mention the bigger risk that a recruiter won’t be able to find someone as good as the person who left in the first place.

To help companies learn what’s on the minds of their employees, the 2016 Employee Engagement Trends report compiles survey results from more than 500,000 employees, across 8,700 companies that participate in nearly 50 “best places to work” contests across America. The study was performed by employee feedback software firm Quantum Workplace.

The Learning Curve

Education level directly correlates with level of employee engagement, according to the study. Employees without a high school diploma were the least engaged group at just under 63 percent. Meanwhile, those holding bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees were in the to 69-70 percent range.

Chances are the least educated employees are on the ground floor of the company. It may be difficult for them to see the bigger picture and how their jobs contribute to the overall success of the business. To increase levels of employee engagement, managers should focus on giving feedback to employees at every level of the business, from the C-suite on down to the lowest data entry or mailroom clerk on the ladder. Every contribution is important and should be recognized for its impact on the company.

For employees with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, their level of engagement correlates directly with how involved they find their jobs to be. According to Quantum Workplace, those who find their jobs to be “interesting and challenging” report being more engaged. This speaks to the importance of making sure that the right person gets hired for the right job. If the corporate culture and/or the tasks of the role don’t fit an employee’s personality and interests, they will most likely feel out of place and disengaged.

SeaWhile still among the groups with the highest levels of total engagement, employees who hold doctoral degrees experienced the largest decrease in engagement from the 2015 survey, feeling about 4 percent less engaged this year than they did last. However, the report also shows that job fit became less of an engagement driver in 2016 for doctoral degree holders. This correlates with employees who have had tenure at their jobs for more than three years, who felt that job fit and job interest were less of an engagement driver than in previous years.

Employment Status Drives Engagement

Another area analyzed by the survey has to do with employment type. Full-time, part-time, and independent contract employees view employee engagement in different ways:

  1. Full-time workers view growth and career development opportunities as the main drivers that keep them engaged, much more so than the other two types of employees. This signifies that full-time workers are most likely in it for the long haul and are looking for a company that wants to invest as much in them as they do in return.
  2. Part-timers are engaged by employers that make personal investments in their success, according to the report. This makes sense, considering that the goal of many part-time workers is often to land a full-time gig.
  3. Independent contractors and temp workers place more of an emphasis on open and honest communication than the other two types of employees. This could be due to the fact that these types of workers are often assigned very specific tasks, and as such, are kept out of the loop about what’s going on with other areas of the company.

The importance of employee engagement can’t be stressed enough. “Engaged employees are more productive, more profitable, more customer-focused, and more likely to stay,” the report says. Still, employee engagement year over year remained relatively flat. This shows that even companies in the running to be crowned “America’s Best Place to Work” have some distance to cover before they’ll be up to par with their employee engagement.

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