Many workers were a lot less enthusiastic about the people they work for in 2010 than they were a year earlier.

Consultants at Aon Hewitt, a unit of Aon Corp., Lincolnshire, Ill. (NYSE:AON), have reported that finding in a summary of results from an analysis of survey data from 5,700 large employers located around the world.

The percentage of workers who said they have positive feelings about their employers’ people and human resources practices fell to 47%, from 57%.

The percentage who said they were happy with their employers’ leadership sank to 54%, from 66%.

The overall engagement fell to 56%, from 60%.

The decline in the overall engagement level was the largest the consultants have recorded in the past 15 years.

Scores started out at a somewhat higher level in North America but fell here, too, the consultants report.

Scores in Latin America started above the world average and stayed above the world average.

Workers seem to be unhappy because managers have not put in the kind of worker required to lead to genuine increases in productivity, the consultants say.

Engagement is not a frill, the consultants argue.

The consultants define companies with engagement levels at 65% or higher as having a “high-performing culture” and those with levels below 45% as being in a “serious or destructive range.”

“Organizations with high levels of engagement continue to outperform the total stock market index and posted total shareholder returns 22% higher than average in 2010,” the consultants report. “On the other hand, companies with low engagement had a total shareholder return that was 28% lower than the average.”