Low worker engagement holds NZ back: study

Last updated 16:24 09/10/2013

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New Zealand's low level of employee engagement poses a barrier to global competitiveness and economic success, a new study says.

A two-year survey conducted by international research company Gallup found that only 23 per cent of New Zealand employees were mentally and emotionally engaged in their jobs.

More than 60 per cent of Kiwi respondents were found to be "not engaged", meaning they were uninspired, lacked motivation and would do just enough to fulfil their job requirements.

Another 15 per cent were "disengaged", meaning they were not only unhappy at work but likely to act out of unhappiness.

Actively disengaged workers cost the New Zealand economy an estimated $7.5 billion a year, Gallup said.

Disengaged workers accounted for more quality defects and safety incidents and had higher absenteeism and lower retention rates than other employees, it said.

Job creation was led by organisations that maximised employees' motivation and enthusiasm for their work, the study said.

In New Zealand, the most highly engaged workers at 40 per cent were farming, fishing and forestry workers.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 9 per cent of transport workers surveyed were psychologically engaged in their work, the study showed.

Gallup said engaged employees were most likely to experience enjoyment, with 78 per cent of engaged Kiwi employees' overall life quality found to be "thriving".

Globally, only 13 per cent of workers were engaged in their work, the study said.

Employee engagement would become an increasingly important concern for countries and organisations seeking to boost labour productivity as the global economy continued its rapid pace of change, Gallup said.

In Australia and New Zealand, just under a fifth of employees in leadership positions were engaged in their jobs, the study showed.

China had one of the lowest scores for engaged workers at 6 per cent.

The study was conducted across 141 countries, with more than 73,700 people taking part.

It follows a Council of Trade Unions (CTU) report released today on insecurity of Kiwi workers.

Statistics New Zealand's Survey of Working Life for December 2012 showed 30 per cent New Zealanders felt insecure in their work, the report said.

CTU president Helen Kelly said New Zealanders were feeling insecure as a result of being unemployed, having irregular hours, a lack of permanent contracts and a lack of legal protection against sudden redundancy.

While current figures showed a third of workers felt insecure in their jobs, the report said more research was needed and the figure could be as high as 40 to 50 per cent of the work force.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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