Singapore, with neighbouring Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, has one of the world's highest proportions of employees described as "not engaged" - meaning that they lack motivation and are less likely to invest effort in organisational goals.

A Gallup poll has found that more than three quarters (76 per cent) of Singaporean employees, surveyed in 2011 and last year, are in this category.

Another 15 per cent are classed as "actively disengaged", that is, they are unproductive and potentially hostile to their organisations; these are the ones who would, for instance, spread negativity to co-workers.

Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report released yesterday surveyed more than 73,000 respondents in 141 non-US countries, and a further 151,000 respondents from the US.

With 91 per cent of Singaporean workers either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged", it leaves the remaining 9 per cent classified as "engaged" at work, that is, being emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organisations every day.

This "engaged" proportion paled in comparison to the global average of 13 per cent and South-east Asia's average of 12 per cent, although it surpassed East Asia's average of 6 per cent.

Gallup said that more can be done to help the "not engaged" workers take more psychological ownership of their roles; it suggested measures such as targeted workplace interventions and employee-focused management training.

It added that it is vital for organisations to engage their employees in order to maintain high-productivity workplaces; both "not engaged" and "actively disengaged" workers tend to be emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and thus are less productive, its research showed.

Employee engagement also boosts other business outcomes such as profitability and customer satisfaction, it added.

Gallup's study also found that among South-east Asians, the less educated tended to be less engaged. Those with elementary education or less are more than four times as likely as those with a college-level education to be actively disengaged at work.

It follows that those working in industries less likely to require higher levels of formal education - construction and manufacturing, for instance - are least likely to be engaged in their jobs.