Do you remember Gallup’s stats about employee engagement from 2021? For the first time in a decade, engagement dropped – going from 36% engaged employees in 2020 to 34% in 2021.
Unfortunately, the number has continued to decline. As of 2022, 32% of full- and part-time employees are engaged. More employees have become actively disengaged on top of that. Active disengagement increased by two percentage points from 2021 and four points from 2020 (now at 18%).
Where the Numbers Come From
To measure employee engagement, Gallup surveys random samples of the working population. In 2022, they surveyed approximately 15,000 full- and part-time employees in the U.S. each quarter. The above numbers were a result of averaging all four quarters. But how do they categorize employees? What do the terms engaged and actively disengaged mean?
In short, engaged employees are “involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace.” Actively disengaged employees are “disgruntled and disloyal” since most of their workplace needs are unmet. These engagement levels are determined by answers to questions about workplace elements.
Each element (such as clarity of expectations or development opportunities) matters because they are linked to organizational outcomes. These include profitability, productivity, customer service, retention, and overall wellbeing.
Which Areas Declined Most
Since the pandemic, the steepest decline has been in these employee engagement elements:
- Clarity of expectations
- Connection to the company’s mission or purpose
- Opportunities to learn and grow
- Opportunities for employees to do what they do best
- Feeling cared about at work
There was also a 6% decline in the number of employees who are extremely satisfied with their organization as a place to work. It would seem there is a growing disconnect between employees and employers. So what can leaders do to bridge the gap of disconnection?
Tips for Leaders
There may not be one concrete answer to employee engagement, but there are definitely a couple things to focus on. Especially when we utilize the data revealing which elements have declined the most.
1. Focus on clarifying expectations
The lack of clear expectations for employees is one of the most concerning engagement issues. It is the most foundational of all the elements. When it lacks, other elements are less impactful. Employees cannot do what they do best when they are confused about what to do. Provide employees with all the information and training needed when hired. Then continue with frequent check-ins to serve as a GPS keeping them on track throughout their journey.
2. Drive home the mission
All companies have a purpose. Even if it doesn’t seem like it’s a big one, there’s a mission and purpose to the work employees do. You first must believe in the mission as a leader. Then you’ll be able to teach your employees how the mission matters in a genuine way. Start early by explaining the vision, mission, and/or purpose in orientation. It doesn’t have to be the first day, but it should be during onboarding. Tie recognition to core values that relate to your mission to reinforce it even more.
3. Invest in development opportunities
In the current era of layoffs and rising costs, investing more money into employees seems like a distant hope. But the cost of turnover is even higher than investing in current employees. Seek out ways to help them learn and grow. It doesn’t have to be super expensive like a conference or paying for further education (although these are phenomenal opportunities!) Create a mentorship program so employees can pair up and learn from more experienced team members. Open doors for internal mobility so people can move into different roles that might interest them or help them continuing growing.
4. Show employees you genuinely care
The past few years, it has become more apparent that emotions and work are intertwined. Employees want to be able to bring their whole selves to work. And when they do, they want to feel like they belong and are cared about. Get to know your team members personally. Find out their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and what they are doing over the weekend. Not everyone will want to foster personal connections at work, so be conscious of those that don’t want to share personal details. There are still many ways you can demonstrate you care about them!
The good news is that striving to increase employee engagement can pay off. Gallup has seen organizations more than double the 32% average. Their 2022 Exceptional Workplace Award winners averaged 70% employee engagement even during highly disruptive times. The moral of the story: Never stop striving for high engagement!