Engagement levels among Canadian employees stagnated at 69 per cent between 2014 and 2015, according to Aon Hewitt’s global employee engagement report, while the U.S. saw a one percent increase to 64 per cent last year, including gains in 12 of the 15 engagement areas measured.

“Obviously, commodity prices haven’t affected the U.S. economy as much as they have in Canada,” says Neil Crawford, leader of Aon Hewitt’s talent practice team in Canada. “…We tend to see engagement scores go down when labour markets are strong because people have more choices. And we tend to see the reverse happen.”

Read: Which global companies are best at attracting and retaining employees?

Since the 2008 recession, Crawford says, many American companies have invested in cost-cutting measures and efficiency drives. “They’ve done everything they can except motivate people to be more productive, more engaged. So I think we’re starting to see more focus in U.S. workplaces around engagement and around improving the productivity of their teams, while in Canada, I think that’s something we’ve focused on.”

That echoes the report, which highlighted the fact that while the Canadian engagement score had flat lined, it is still five per cent higher than the U.S. score.

“I do think there’s a lot more consistency in [Canada’s] work environments and there’s consistency in our legislation around working conditions and attitudes of management towards working conditions,” Crawford says. “I think you see a much greater variation in the U.S. around that, and that can affect overall engagement levels.”

Read: U.S. employers focus on supporting staff wellbeing through workplace culture: survey 

Even within Canada, however, engagement scores varied. According to five-year averages, Crawford says, scores peaked in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces at around 69 per cent, fell to around 67 per cent in Ontario and the Prairies, and fell even further to around 65 per cent in Alberta and British Columbia.

In the east, “the populations are more grounded,” Crawford says, citing connections to family and culture. “There’s a tendency for them to stay in these geographies and continue to work if they can.”

People may move to the west coast, on the other hand, because they want to live there, “but the job environment they might want isn’t necessarily available to them,” Crawford says. So they may accept a less than ideal position, and therefore have lower engagement rates.

Read: 58% of employees say employers aren’t ready to engage: report

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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