Aon Hewitt, has launched the 2014 Trends in Asia Pacific Employee Engagement Report.
As the global economy continues to stabilize, GDP growth improved across most of the Asia Pacific region during the past year, with an overall growth rate of 4%. The outlook for Asia Pacific’s growth is to remain steady and higher than the global average, at 5.4% in 2014 and 5.5% in 2015. Overall, positive changes have impacted engagement levels in Asia Pacific, as reflected in the key findings below.
“In many cases, employers in Asia Pacific will be building on a strong foundation: our report shows that employees in the region have already attained levels of engagement that are on par with the global average. There is also plenty of room for improvement: 24% of Asia Pacific employees are only passively engaged. The challenge for employers is to improve and sustain levels, to support continued business growth”, said Gabriela Domicelj, Regional Engagement Practice Leader, Asia Pacific.
Asia Pacific employee engagement in 2013 was higher than before the financial crisis. Rising from 58% in 2012 to 61% in 2013, Asia Pacific’s average engagement score rose to 61% in 2013 from 58% in 2012, a bigger increase than was seen in the global engagement score, which rose to 61% in 2013 from 60% in 2012. In 2013, Asia Pacific shares the same engagement score of 61% as the global average. Of the 12 countries represented in this report, nine saw improvements in employee engagement levels in 2013, two saw scores decline, and one remained the same. Compared to the global average, Asia Pacific employees are more willing to advocate for their employers, but less willing to stay in the organization.
In 2013, Asia Pacific reported increases in all Say, Stay and Strive scores (see Appendix for Aon Hewitt’s Engagement Model). Most significantly, Say scores increased by six points to 69%, showing that more employees are saying good things about their employers. Despite an increase since 2012, the Stay score of 55% remained the lowest of the three, reflecting that just under half of employees in Asia Pacific are willing to stay with their organizations. Almost two-thirds of all employees in Asia Pacific are engaged; 24% are passively engaged and present a great opportunity for employers to improve their engagement levels.
The engagement distribution in Asia Pacific shares an identical pattern with global employee engagement distributions. 21% of employees are highly engaged, leaving a large potential for employers to improve engagement, as 64% of employees in Asia Pacific are either moderately or passively engaged. With the right management and work conditions, these employees could become highly engaged. The overall work experience in Asia Pacific is improving. Globally, overall work experience improved by 4%, while Asia Pacific showed an increase of 6%. The areas that have improved the most are employer brand and foundational elements (i.e., safety, resources).
However, perception of leadership and company practices has dropped. This may be because Asia Pacific employees are becoming more sophisticated and therefore more discerning about business and strategic imperatives. Career Opportunities and Pay remain the top two engagement drivers in Asia Pacific. Career Opportunities were the number one driver both globally and in Asia Pacific in 2013 (Career Opportunities ranked as the top engagement driver in nine out of 12 countries). Pay has a particularly higher ranking in Asia Pacific compared to the rest of the world, and is valued notably in China, South Korea, and Thailand.
Anand Shankar, Performance, Talent and Rewards Regional Practice leader, Asia Pacific, said, “Employees today have access to vast amounts of data that allow them to compare potential and current employers on multiple levels, and they are using it to ensure they get the best jobs and conditions possible. Employees in Asia Pacific are becoming increasingly clear and vocal about what they want. Our research shows that employees in Asia Pacific want career opportunities even more than they want pay increases.”
Gabriela Domicelj added: “Engagement drivers differ substantially by country. Asia Pacific shows a great deal of cultural, economic, and political diversity. Talent management practices also vary greatly in maturity across countries and industries in this region. Operating in this complex environment presents a challenge for leaders trying to drive high levels of employee engagement.
Organizations that invest in understanding and managing the key drivers of employee engagement across their multiple constituencies will be able to drive performance in more efficient and effective ways”. The report first analyzes employee engagement trends for the Asia Pacific region, then goes into a detailed breakdown of each of the 12 countries surveyed. These data-backed insights are important for helping employers understand how current trends in demographics and culture are reshaping what employees want in exchange for their efforts. With these trends in mind, companies need to take action to optimize employees’ motivation and productivity.
Overall, in 2013, Asia Pacific witnessed changes in employee engagement. In particular, the region saw improvements in the number of “highly engaged” employees, which increased by 5% to 21%, and in the engagement levels of Millennials, which rose by 5% in 2013 compared with 2012. Looking ahead, employers should focus on ways to sustain growth and avoid volatility in employee engagement levels, especially in fast-growing economies such as China, Indonesia, Thailand and India. Investing wisely in engagement-improvement initiatives is the key for business and HR leaders. The following top five engagement drivers in Asia Pacific highlight the opportunities we see for organizations to improve their employee engagement levels.
Career Opportunities – consistently shows up as the most important employee engagement driver across all Asia Pacific countries. The importance of Career Opportunities within an organization is evident across generations, job levels and job function. Thus, having a flexible and clearly defined career path is one of the most critical improvements for employers to focus on.
Career Opportunities also includes having options for short-term assignments and geographic transfers. Strengths in this area will certainly be a differentiating factor for employers in Asia Pacific.
Pay – After rising in the rankings for two years, Pay remains the second most important engagement driver in Asia Pacific. The findings around pay indicate that economic pressures, threats of inflation, and historical pay constraints may have caused pay to be more highly sought after in specific Asia Pacific countries. Employers should focus on “pay-for performance” strategies, drive more variation in reward levels that are aligned with engagement and performance output, and motivate their employees to give their best performance.
Brand Alignment – Brand Alignment has risen from number four to number three in the list of top five impact drivers. It is important that organizations are consistent in keeping the promises they make to their employees and in providing the promised experience for employees once on-board. Those organizations that focus on articulating a unique and compelling employee value proposition for prospective and current employees and who then deliver on that proposition will be rewarded with higher employee engagement.
Recognition – Recognition schemes are certainly less costly for an employer than direct pay and can also have a significant impact on employee engagement. Despite many economic and business pressures, engagement is on the rise – more employees have said good things about their company are committed to staying with them and have put in extra efforts at work. These employees deserve recognition from their employers, which will in turn result in sustained or even higher engagement.
Managing Performance – The only driver that is new on the list compared to the previous year. Employees in Asia Pacific want to work for organizations that focus on clear performance outcomes. Employers need a holistic approach to ‘employee performance’ as part of their culture, and one that is supported by enabling performance management processes, effective people management, ensuring learning and development supports the capability required to perform, and reinforcing performance through rewards and recognition.
Gabriela Domicelj concluded, “Today’s talent challenges in Asia Pacific are significant. Organizations have to invest wisely in their employees to stay ahead of the race. Getting employee engagement right is a major step towards driving positive business results through increased employee productivity. Now is the time to focus on improving employee engagement in workplaces across Asia Pacific”.