According to a recent Gallup poll, only 14% of employees in Australia and New Zealand feel they are engaged with their workplace, which is a 10% drop from a similar poll in 2012. This significant decline has HR practitioners in the country wondering what the cause is? And what can be done to stop it?

Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing researcher Dr Paula Mowbray was invited to speak on the topic for the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) in Melbourne in October.

During her presentation, she spoke about the latest academic models of engagement, approaches to building a modern and engaged workplace and possible pitfalls of work intensification.

“I guess there’s this big concern that we’re spending all this money on engagement surveys or researchers who are doing research, so why aren’t we seeing any improvement?” said Mowbray.

According to Mowbray, researchers are now pointing out that there needs to be a better connection for practitioners regarding what the evidence is saying about engagement and applying that to organisations.

“For example, a surgeon might be highly engaged in what they do, so they’re highly engaged in going in, performing the surgery, saving the child’s life, they get a lot of joy and pleasure in doing that but they might not be engaged to the hospital they work for, for whatever reason,” said Mowbray.

“It might be because of the bureaucracy, or it might be because of their relationship with the senior leaders. So if we were to capture what their engagement was to the organisation in a survey we’re not necessarily capturing all the elements of engagement, so we need to look at both of those levels and put in strategies to actually effect both of those levels of engagement.”

Mowbray believes opportunities to speak to and hear from industry leaders like the Ai Group is vital for not only HR practitioners but academic researchers as well.

“Industry is very keen to use evidence-based approaches, so the HR practitioners out there want to know what best practice is, and so it’s important to be able to make that connection with them, to be able to discuss what is actually happening around the world in terms of the most current research that’s happening, said Mowbray.

“likewise it’s important for us academics to be able to get insights in what’s happening in their organisations, so this was a great opportunity to present to them some of the academic research which really then created this big discussion.”

Dr Paula Mowbrayis a Griffith University Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing. She has also been a Lecturer, Research Assistant and is a graduate Higher Degree Research (HDR) student at Griffith University since 2012.Mowbray’s research specialises in employee voice, and employee involvement and participation.