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One in two Canadian employees looking to leave or checked out on the job

Half of all Canadian employees are disengaged at their work.

That message comes through loud and clear in a new survey, conducted over the past two quarters among nearly 30,000 workers in 17 countries, including more than 2,000 workers in Canada (not including workers from the public sector).

Slightly more than one in three (36 per cent) Canadian workers are seriously considering leaving their organization at the present time, up sharply from 26 per cent in 2006.

Meanwhile, another 22 per cent are indifferent about leaving but are increasingly dissatisfied with their employers and yield the lowest scores on key measures of engagement, a term that describes a combination of an employee's loyalty, commitment and motivation (see Figure 1).

"This erosion in employee sentiment has business consequences that reach well beyond the direct costs of employee turnover," said Madeline Avedon, principal, Mercer's Human Capital business. "Canadian employees, in particular, are more engaged when they can deliver quality service and have a positive view of their company."

Of the top six survey questions that employees most correlated to their engagement, four focus on commitment to quality and future success of the organization.

"Diminished respect for and lack of confidence in an organization can undermine the innovation and productivity gains businesses rely on from their workforces," she said.

Scores for career development and performance management remain low, however employees credit their employers for improvements in these areas, including higher scores in implementing formal feedback programs (54 per cent said they had a formal performance appraisal or review in the past 12 months compared to 46 per cent in 2006).

"These data also confirm the correlation between performance management and a highly engaged workforce. Employees who received performance reviews in the last year are significantly more positive about their organization and its ability to manage talent," said Avedon.

For example, among those who received a performance review in the last year, 62 per cent believe there is opportunity for growth and development with their company, compared to 42 per cent among those who did not receive a performance review.

Other key data highlight employees' concerns about work and reflect an evolving employment relationship — one generally characterized as a series of takeaways and a tightening of any "extras" in response to today's struggling economy:

  • Employees regard base pay as the most important element of the employment deal by a wide margin, yet only a little more than half (53 per cent) say they are satisfied with their base pay, and only slightly more (58 per cent) feel they are paid fairly given their performance and contributions.
  • Only 43 per cent of Canadian employees believe they are doing enough to financially prepare for retirement, and just 40 per cent believe their employers are doing enough to help them prepare.
  • Sixty-six per cent rate their overall benefits program as good or very good, while 58 per cent say they are satisfied with their health care benefits. However, only 53 per cent say their benefits are as good as, or better, than those of others in their industry, down from 65 per cent.
  • As a result, overall scores are down consistently across key engagement measures while intention to leave is up across all employee segments, with the youngest workers most likely to be eyeing a departure — 43 per cent of employees age 25-34 and 45 per cent of employees 24 and younger.

The findings from the What's Working survey — conducted by Mercer — are part of a 2011 explorative series entitled Inside Employees' Minds: Navigating the New Rules of Engagement.

A dedicated website ( will feature videos, podcasts and other intellectual capital to help employers better understand and create ways to increase employee engagement.


Figure 1 - Disaffected workers post lowest engagement scores, views of employers


Percentage who agree

Among those
not seriously
(42% of all

Among those
(36% of all

those who
(22% of all

Personally feel treated fairly by organization




Proud to work for organization




Get feeling of personal accomplishment from work




Willing to go beyond job requirements to help organization succeed




Would recommend my organization to others as a good place to work




Feel strong sense of commitment to organization




See a long-term future with organization




Believe organization as a whole is well-managed




Source - Mercer's What's Working ™ survey