While the economy is slowly recovering, a recent analysis by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing company, shows employee engagement and morale in the workplace are not. Almost half of organizations around the world saw a significant drop in employee engagement levels at the end of the June 2010 quarter—the largest decline Hewitt has observed since it began conducting employee engagement research 15 years ago. This highlights the growing tension between employers—many of which are struggling to stabilize their financial situation—and employees, who are showing fatigue in response to a lengthy period of stress, uncertainty and confusion brought about by the recession and their company's actions.

Since July 2008, at the onset of the economic downturn, Hewitt began closely analyzing changes in employee engagement levels by quarter for more than 900 organizations globally that conducted annual engagement studies. These studies covered topics such as employee morale, confidence in the organization, career opportunities, rewards and recognition programs, and trust in leadership.

Historically, Hewitt’s research shows that about half of these organizations improved their engagement levels in a one-or-two year period, while only 15 percent had experienced a decline. However, the past two years have been more challenging: the percent of organizations with declining engagement has been steadily growing. This trend is particularly notable in 2010. Hewitt’s research shows that 46 percent of organizations experienced a decline in engagement levels in the quarter ending June 2010, while just 30 percent saw an improvement.

“The economic situation over the past two years has clearly strained the connection between employers and employees and the stress continues to increase,” said Ted Marusarz, leader of Global Engagement and Culture at Hewitt. “Organizations are struggling to improve employee engagement, but they need to stay focused. The extra effort companies put forth now will make a difference in how successful they are at boosting employee morale and retaining top talent as the economy stabilizes and employee opportunities open up.”