How Important is Engagement? 87% of Leaders Say a Lack of It is a Key Issue

I never cease to be amazed at how hard it is for talent managers to get their hands around the issue of employee engagement.

And, a new study from Deloitte titled Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work tells you exactly why.

According to the just released survey of more than 3,300 HR and business leaders in 106 countries, lack of employee engagement is the top issue currently facing a whopping 87 percent of HR and business leaders, and that’s up from 79 percent last year. In addition:

  • The number of HR and business leaders who cited engagement as being “very important” doubled from 26 percent last year to 50 percent this year.
  • Some 60 percent of HR and business leaders surveyed said they do not have an adequate program to measure and improve engagement.
  • Only 12 percent say they actually have a program in place to define and build a strong culture.
  • Just 7 percent of those surveyed rated themselves as excellent at measuring, driving, and improving engagement and retention.

Is power really shifting from employer to employee?

According to Josh Bersin, it’s our rapidly changing world of work that may be at least partly to blame.

“As demand for talent picks up, the balance of power in business is rapidly shifting from the employer to the employee,” said Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, in a press release about the survey. “Moreover, workers are becoming more mobile, contingent and autonomous, and as a result, harder to manage and engage. In this new world of work, organizations need to re-imagine the way they manage people and come up with new, out-of-the-box ideas to make themselves relevant.”

Some of the other key findings include:

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  • Leadership gaps – last year’s most critical issue – continued to be top of mind for HR and business leaders, with 86 percent citing it as a top issue this year.
  • The number of respondents who said leadership gaps was “very important” jumped from 38 percent last year, to 50 percent this year.
  • Surprisingly, only 49 percent of C-level executives surveyed indicate that they are committed to developing leadership skills at all levels of the organization, according to the Deloitte Business Confidence Report 2014.
  • Some 85 percent of HR and business leaders ranked learning and development as a top issue, compared to 70 percent last year.
  • Companies are struggling to decrease workplace stress, simplify business processes, and reduce complexity, with 66 percent of respondents believe their employees are “overwhelmed” by today’s work environment; and 74 percent citing workplace complexity as a significant problem.
  • Although more than half of the surveyed organizations have some type of simplification program, 25 percent say they have no plans to implement a program.

Changing expectations

“There are significant shifts happening in the global workplace that business must actively manage,” said Brett Walsh, global human capital practice leader, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, in a press release about the survey.

he added: “In addition to workers’ changing expectations of employers, skills needed on the job are changing faster than ever. Organizations are quickly falling behind on developing the right skills across all levels. There’s an urgent need for organizations to re-evaluate their learning programs and treat leadership development as a long-term investment, rather than a discretionary training spend item when times are favorable.”

This seems to be the week for surveys, with so many coming out that I can’t possibly get to them all. However, Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work is one of the better ones in terms of giving you good insight into what the larger trends are driving today’s workplace, and what you need to do to cope with them.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


1 Comment on “How Important is Engagement? 87% of Leaders Say a Lack of It is a Key Issue

  1. Great post John. It’s interesting they lumped culture and engagement in the same category.

    They wrote: “This challenge highlights
    the need for business and HR leaders to
    gain a clear understanding of their organization’s
    culture and reexamine every
    HR and talent program as a way to better
    engage and empower people.” Gallup’s engagement study results have barely changed in 15 years. It’s due to the bigger picture of culture which goes far beyond engaging and empower people.

  2. From a statistical perspective, company owners have only recently
    started to value engagement. In 2014, only 26% of business leaders
    thought it was important to retain employees; now in 2015, 50% of
    businesses believe that it is vital to find a way to keep your best
    talents. Sadly, even if CEOs admit that engagement matters, 60% of them
    don’t have a program to improve and measure this engagement.

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