Employee engagement crisis is now so bad it’s affecting government policy

The falling response rate for the government’s monthly labour market survey is now impacting workplace policies.

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Helena Young

In a sign that employee engagement has hit a crisis point, reduced survey participation rates mean the UK government is now struggling to form effective labour policies.

Statistical response rates have been steadily declining over the past few years. In October 2023, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suspended publication of its monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) due to concerns about the accuracy of the data being gathered.

The shift mirrors a similar pattern in UK workplaces. Last year, a report from workplace consultancy Gallup found that just 10% of UK employees feel engaged at work – one of the lowest recorded in Europe.

What is the Labour Force Survey?

The LFS is a survey of private households in the UK. Every month, it tracks key indicators like labour participation rates to give employers and employees an up-to-date picture of the jobs landscape.

Forming the backbone of several crucial policy decisions, the data collected is then used to inform initiatives, such as flexible working measures and minimum wage adjustments.

But, with many households no longer bothering to fill in their responses, an ONS update today revealed it was still unable to source precise analysis of the UK work landscape.

This could have significant consequences. Inaccurate findings could lead to misdirected policies, potentially exacerbating existing problems or overlooking emerging trends. Underestimating unemployment could lead to a drop in support packages.

Organisations, too, rely on these insights to make informed decisions regarding hiring, training, and adapting to shifting workforce dynamics.

Staff engagement risks economic recovery

Governments and statistical agencies are taking note of the drop in contributors. Initiatives like increasing sample sizes and offering alternative participation methods like online forms are being explored.

However, declining staff engagement is not an isolated case. It reflects a broader trend of reduced worker participation across various sectors, fuelled by the rising cost of living and anxieties about job security due to recent high-profile layoffs.

As a result, many employees are switching off from full-time work and engaging in anti-work trends like ‘quiet quitting’.

Disengaged employees pose a concern for businesses. Their lower output, higher error rates, and poor morale can jeopardise a company’s objectives and competitive edge.

Additionally, the ripple effects of absenteeism and heightened staff turnover can create a vicious hiring cycle that further hinders growth potential.

In a business landscape where growth is crucial for survival, fostering a positive work culture and motivating staff through meaningful work is key to reversing this trend and ensuring growth in 2024.

Find over 50 ways to motivate employees in our guide to the top employee benefits and perks.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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