By Melissa J. Anderson

A new report by Modern Survey shows that employee engagement may be stretched to the limit, with “fully engaged” employees plateauing at just 12%, since February of 2010 – a drop of 3 percentage points since August of 2009. The numbers were expected to rise again in August of this year, but instead remained flat at 12%.

At the same time, the numbers of “disengaged” employees dropped slightly from 19% in February of 2010 to 13% in February 2010, while the number of “unengaged” employees rose 5 percentage points to 44% in the same period. So, it appears that while people who really disliked their jobs in February only moderately dislike them now.

This corresponds interestingly with US Bureau of Labor Statics data showing in that in February 2010, the number of employees quitting their jobs surpassed those leaving due to layoffs or firings for the first time since October 2008. Managers who think that actively disengaged individuals will stick around and should just be happy to have any job aren’t paying attention.

No More to Give?

Additionally, the Modern Survey study found, employees who say they are willing to put in extra effort for their job may be tapped out. Hitting a high in August of 2009 at 61%, then dropping 57% in February and now plateauing at 58%, the numbers show that employees are becoming less motivated to go the extra mile, even though the numbers of engaged and moderately engaged individuals are relatively stable.

According to Modern Survey’s Senior Consultant Bruce Campbell, “It appears that a substantial number of U.S. workers have adapted to the new reality of our economy. Our most recent data suggest that many workers who were clearly disengaged in February now feel more neutral about their companies and jobs.”

He continued, “The majority of these under engaged employees intend to stay where they are for the time being, but are probably doing only the bare minimum needed to get by at work, and likely would not recommend working at their company to others.”

Tips to Engage Your Talent – Before It’s Too Late

If Campbell is right, many of these employees are merely holding out for greener pastures when the economy improves.

And, according to Impact Group, a workplace transition consultancy, engagement does more than improve retention. “A recent WorkUSA Survey Report found that Q1 companies with a healthy stock of engaged employees bring in an estimated 26% more revenue than less engaged Q4 companies. (5) – so each unengaged employee is costing you.”

What can your company due to engage this talent, before they hit the job boards? According to a new white paper by Impact Group, the top four ways to retail your talent are:

1. Inspirational Manager

2. Opportunities for Advancement

3. “Good employer” Company Reputation

4. Salary

Rather than throwing bonuses at employees or rely on equally tapped out managers, suggests Impact Group, you should invest in employee development. The white paper says:

“Talent development increases employee satisfaction, productivity and overall engagement reduces churn; aligns employees with company goals and secures a healthy totem pole of apt successors. Talent development allows employees to improve upon weaknesses and strengthen strengths – a win-win under your roof.”

How does your company focus on talent development or career management training? Taking a proactive approach to this issue will help keep your employees engaged and improve retention – and may even help attract a few new faces when it’s time to recruit.