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Retail and hospitality staff the least engaged

The UK also lags behind other countries on employee engagement generally

Less than half (48%) of workers across 11 sectors feel engaged in their current jobs, according to research from Qualtrics.

The research found that 41% of retail workers hardly ever, or not very often, looked forward to going to work. Meanwhile IT and technology employees are the most engaged, with 46% looking forward to the working day.

The Qualtrics UK Employee Pulse surveyed more than 500 workers and measured employee engagement scores across the globe. Out of the nine nations surveyed, only Hong Kong and Singapore came in lower than the UK for engagement at work. The survey also found that almost one in five (17%) employees intend to leave their roles in the next two years.

When it came to reasons for low engagement, a perceived lack of work/life balance emerged as key, with this cited by three-quarters (71%) of respondents. Stress was cited by 55% of workers looking to leave, and being with a company for a short amount of time was also a significant factor, with 48% of those looking to leave having been in their role for three years or less.

Charmi Patel, associate professor in HRM at Henley Business College, said: “It is not surprising that workers in the retail and hospitality sectors are not feeling satisfied. Far too often these jobs are too focused on customer satisfaction and not on personal development. There’s often little room for career progression and hardly any emphasis on an employee’s overall quality of life.”

Patel told HR magazine that HR professionals should act quickly to improve engagement. “It’s contagious: if one or two employees do not feel engaged in their work then others will follow. This culture is extremely detrimental to productivity, and can contribute to a high turnover rate in companies."

She added: “Employees need to feel that their work is meaningful, and that involves looking beyond the needs of business alone, and more towards training and development outside of the work environment.”

Sarah Marrs, employee engagement advisor for Qualtrics, said: “Businesses tend to focus on standard elements like pay or traditional career progression, but this study shows factors like showing support for your employees' work/life balance and giving them a chance to try more lateral things in their roles have a greater impact on engagement.”

She added the crucial role line managers can play. "We've seen from our study that managers are the key – whether it’s encouraging a healthy work/life balance, giving their teams flexibility in their roles or being more of a ‘player-coach’ and getting hands on when needed, the top three drivers of engagement are all things affected by managers," she told HR magazine. "That’s great news, because it doesn’t require huge organisational changes to have a positive effect on engagement.

"HR needs to be the enabler by giving managers the data they need, helping them to follow up with action plans, and monitoring progress on them throughout the year," she added. "If you can coach your managers and enable them to drive change, you can really move the dial on the employee experience.”