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Attaining High Employee Engagement Proves Challenging Due to Covid’s Impact - HR Research Institute Releases Results of 2021 Survey

November 8, 2021 -- The “Future of Engagement 2021,” conducted by the HR Research Institute, reveals that Covid-19 packed a wallop on employee engagement — with many organizations reporting low levels of engagement. A full 31% of respondents reported that engagement sagged over the past two years, with 7% saying it plummeted by more than 10% as more employees retreated to their homes and businesses shut down. About half indicate that engagement is higher and 18% say engagement has not changed in either direction.

“Managers on the front lines were not prepared to foster engagement and, even after two years of trial and error, the survey shows that much of these processes have yet to be worked out for a lot of organizations,” says Eric Mosley, CEO, Workhuman. “Even more telling is that while engagement drives value across the organization, leaders aren’t making it a priority. That may be why we’re seeing the great resignation — people simply aren’t feeling the love from their companies.”

Other major findings include:

  • Companies recognize the value of employee engagement, but do not prioritize it. While participants think that engagement positively impacts customer service (76%), well-being (74%), company brand (73%), retention (72%), and productivity (72%) to a high or very high degree, just 30% indicate senior leaders prioritize engagement, and only 24% say they invest enough in engagement-related resources.

  • Although a majority of organizations measure and share engagement, more than a third do not, and there is no consensus on the best way to measure it. A full 88% think there are reliable ways to measure engagement, but only 63% measure it and most commonly rely on performance management system metrics (55%).

  • Managers lack appropriate training to coach and develop employees toward a positive working culture. Only 31% train their managers in how to boost employee engagement, 43% provide career growth advice and associated opportunities to high degrees, and about half (48%) say managers spend the time coaching employees to develop strengths to a high or very high degree.

  • Organizations with high levels of employee engagement are more likely to adopt sentiment analysis as an engagement metrics tool. They are more than three times more likely to say most of their managers are highly skilled at fostering engaged individuals and teams and more than twice as likely to say their leaders prioritize engagement.

“The research shows that organizations that perform better in employee engagement practices are more likely to create a caring/positive work culture and make engagement a partnership across all job levels and departments,” says Debbie McGrath, CEO, “When it comes to engagement, most employees care about themselves and where they fit in the organization — but it’s not what you think — their career growth (45%), fit into organization’s culture (44%), relationship with supervisor (42%) and a sense of purpose (40%) are more important than pay, safety and remote work.”

The research report, The Future of Employee Engagement 2021-22, can be downloaded here: and is sponsored by Workhuman, Terryberry, Achievers, Open Sesame, Harrison Assessments, Bonusly, Motivosity, Culture Amp, Blueboard and Nivati.

About the Survey

The “Future of Engagement 2021” was conducted from September and October 2021. The survey report was based on 374 responses from HR professionals across all industries. The participants represent a broad cross-section of employers by number of employees, ranging from small businesses with fewer than 100 employees to enterprises with 20,000+ employees.

​​About and the HR Research Institute’s HR Research Institute helps HR departments keep their finger on the pulse of HR! is committed to creating inspired and informed workforces by maximizing the potential of HR professionals around the world. Almost 2 million HR professionals rely on as the foremost, trusted industry resource for education, career development, and compliance (that many people can’t be wrong!). Offerings include the largest network of HR executives, leading-edge industry research from the HR Research Institute, 13 monthly HR-themed epublications, innovative HR education including 250+ annual webcasts, the most comprehensive HR certification exam preparation program supporting SHRM and HRCI certification, as well as helpful HR tools and legal compliance updates. has the largest knowledge base of HR practices globally and offers unparalleled training and networking for HR professionals all over the world... 24/7… 365 (just in case you can’t get enough HR). Visit to download research (always free) and to maximize HR potential.

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