Majority of U.S. Workers Lack Commitment to Employers

Jan. 1, 2003
Satisfied employees are not necessarily hard working or committed to a company's bottom-line performance, and a majority of U.S. workers admit to having

Satisfied employees are not necessarily hard working or committed to a company's bottom-line performance, and a majority of U.S. workers admit to having a low level of commitment to the job they do and the company they work for, according to a groundbreaking employee loyalty study released by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Intersearch (

However, the same study finds significant room for improvement in that the best-performing Fortune 500 companies are bucking this trend with significantly higher levels of employee commitment. Workers at these companies give management higher ratings on issues of business ethics, innovation and competitiveness. At the same time, they report receiving higher performance evaluations, having increased their productivity and taken fewer days off due to sickness and personal reasons.

The TNS study surveyed 20,000 workers across 33 countries. Two thousand full-time employees were surveyed in the U.S., ranging from corporate executives to front-line and administrative employees in all industry groups. The U.S.-based employees worked for some of this country's -- and the world's -- largest organizations. The TNS study is unique in that it uses a proprietary analytical tool called EmployeeScore that effectively measures, for the first time, employees by their level of commitment, both to the company they work for and the job they do.

As such, the study classified employees into four different groups:

• Ambassadors (Global 44 percent/U.S. 41 percent): The most committed -- those who are fully committed to the company and to their work.

• Company Oriented (Global 8 percent/U.S. 8 percent): The next most committed group, which includes those who are fully committed to their company -- more so than their work and career.

• Career Oriented (Global 14 percent/U.S. 20 percent): Includes those who are more interested in furthering their career and their needs over the needs of the company.

• Disengaged (Global 35 percent/U.S. 31 percent): The employee segment that no company wants, but has in abundance. They are neither committed to their company nor to their career.

"We have found that successful companies are populated with top-performing and fully dedicated employees who have clear expectations of the organization and have ongoing opportunities to contribute something significant while learning and growing as individuals," said TNS senior vice president and global organizational development practice head Chuck Cornwell.

In fact, a plurality of U.S. employees fall into the Ambassador category (44 percent worldwide; 41 percent U.S.) -- those highly committed to the company and to their work. What drives their commitment? They are team oriented and motivated by an opportunity to advance within the organization and be rewarded based on performance. Top-performing companies have a significantly higher percentage of Ambassadors than do poorer-performing companies (45 percent vs. 35 percent).

"While not everyone can or will become an Ambassador, it appears from our research that enhancing those factors that drive Ambassador commitment would increase the commitment of all other segments," notes Cornwell.

U.S. companies may be better served by enhancing employee commitment since the research indicates the U.S. has a much higher percentage of workers who put their career, rather than their company, first (20 percent versus 14 percent). These Career Oriented employees are clearly focused on personal aspirations and are self-focused.

Although this may explain why the U.S. is one of the most productive countries in the world, it may also be a result of the state of the economy, corporate scandals, downsizing and increased job mobility.

Cornwell suggests focusing on development and advancement opportunities to motivate Career Oriented employees to help transition them to Ambassadors.

Company Oriented employees are found in abundance at the best-performing Fortune 500 companies, many of which appear on Fortune's Most Admired and 100 Best Companies To Work for in America lists.

“The issues that motivate Company Oriented employees are a good workplace setting that enables them to do their jobs, people at work who care for them as employees, equal opportunities and clear and focused communications from the top down and bottom up," emphasizes Cornwell.

Commitment levels also remain high among workers over the age of 50 and those within industries that are performing well financially such as healthcare and professional services.

At the other end of the spectrum is an alarming Disengaged segment that represents almost one out of every three employees in the world. While this number is slightly less in the U.S. (31 percent) versus the rest of the world (35 percent), the figure suggests that U.S. companies are failing to get the most out of their employees and, thus, their bottom line.

Cornwell notes that this finding indicates a pressing need for new research methodologies that go beyond traditional top-line surveys of simple satisfaction.

"Companies have long realized that the most dynamic and valuable capital they possess are their employees," comments Cornwell. "The results of this study suggest that it is possible to create a high-performance culture with highly committed employees."

For example, Ambassadors and Company Oriented employees exhibit a dramatically different attitude profile than Career Oriented and Disengaged employees. They are much more satisfied with their jobs, are more likely to recommend their companies and plan to stay at their companies longer. Also, they rate nearly every aspect of their company cultures higher than do their counterparts in the poorer performing companies.

According to Cornwell, "This pattern of employee attitudes tends to predict lower turnover, which ultimately has a positive impact on the bottom line. Hence, it is essential for today's leading companies to precisely target attitudes and behaviors that impact an employee's commitment to the company."

TNS Intersearch's Organizational Development Practice is part of Taylor Nelson Sofres worldwide group. Staffed with an international network of employee research and market research experts, TNS provides cross-functional capabilities. TNS Intersearch's practice is dedicated to issues that are unique to U.S.-based companies and is led by experienced organizational consultants. More information about the Organizational Development Practice can be found at

Through its network of 230 offices in more than 50 countries, Taylor Nelson Sofres provides market information services in more than 100 countries to leading national and multi-national organizations. For more information, visit