Despite an upward trend since 2012, employee engagement levels declined by 2 points to 59 percent in Malaysia last year, according to the 2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement Report from Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions.

As employees in Malaysia anticipate better navigation of the organisation’s future and business decisions during a tough economy, ‘Senior Leadership’ comes under scrutiny as perception scores fell across all employees groups in Malaysia.

Scores representing the ‘Say’ dimension in the Aon Engagement Model fell by 3 points, with employees less inclined to recommend their organisation to a friend seeking employment. The ‘Strive’ dimension also suffered a 3-point drop, with employees admitting they are less motivated to contribute more than is normally required to complete their work.

Prashant Chadha, Managing Director, Aon Hewitt Malaysia and Brunei, said: “When ‘Say’ and ‘Strive’ scores fall as sharply as they did in Malaysia in 2016, the ‘Stay’ dimension will also be impacted — which means that the risk of losing good talent exponentially increases. Yet we know that only organisations that can effectively leverage on their critical talent will stay ahead in the game. So it is more pertinent than ever now for senior leaders to up their game, clearly communicate the organisation’s future direction, and most importantly, articulate where each employee fits into the bigger picture.”

While ‘Reputation’ remains the top scoring driver for employees when seeking an employer, the overall perception scores for organisational reputation among employees fell by 2 points. Employees’ sense of pride in their organisation also fell by 1 point.

Vernon Goh, Engagement Practice Leader, Aon Hewitt Malaysia, said: “Talent retention is just as challenging as talent attraction. Often, we see good talent leaving organisations because their potential and performance are hampered by workplace culture. Organisations that can provide strong work hygiene and inimitable working experience to the employees will promote retention.”

Employees in Malaysia join their Singaporean counterparts in being the least engaged among major Asian markets. Engagement scores for India are 69%, followed by China (67%), Thailand (65%), Philippines (65%), Indonesia (61%), and Malaysia (59%).

Overall engagement scores for employees in Asia Pacific dropped from 65% in 2015 to 62% in 2016. Aon’s analysis found regional variations in engagement are driven by regional and country-specific economic, political and cultural differences.