Shades of Grey: An exploratory study of engagement in work teams

Following the publication of “Engagement through CEO Eyes” in 2013, the Barriers TAG have commissioned the largest ever UK study of barriers to team engagement.

The joint study, from Engage for Success, Ashridge Executive Education and Oracle, challenges conventional thinking about the way engagement is measured and suggests that teams are often nowhere near as engaged as their organisations think they are.

The study shows that only a quarter of UK teams are giving their best at work, while almost a third (32 per cent) are actively disengaged.

The report is based on a study of 195 participants from 28 teams across seven industry sectors. Organisations in the study varied from SMEs to UK-based multi-nationals, from sectors ranging from Government and aviation to chemicals and healthcare.

From the study, researchers identified four zones of engagement:

In the Zone of Disengagement (32 per cent), teams are inward-looking, there are cliques and high levels of mistrust and team members describe themselves as over-worked, stressed or burnt out.

In the Zone of Contentment (21 per cent) team members do the minimum amount of work required and do not seek stretch or challenge. 14 per cent of teams initially perceived by their organizations to be highly engaged actually fell into this ‘contented’ category.

In the Zone of Pseudo-Engagement (21 per cent) team members play the system to serve their own needs, stretching workload to fill time, for example, and giving managers the illusion they are engaged because that is what they want to hear.

In the Zone of Engagement (25 per cent), teams are proactive and solution-focused. There is a positive atmosphere, a high degree of connectivity and team members support each other personally and professionally.

The report also emphasises the vital role team leaders play as the makers or breakers of engagement. It shows that the three most important factors for team engagement, regardless of which zone a team is located in, are:

  • challenging and varied work,
  • working with trusted colleagues and
  • having a team leader who is trusted and leads by example.

An online team diagnostic has recently been developed, which will help teams ascertain their current state of engagement. 

Read the full report here:

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