In this blog and the next few I want to discuss what I think is one of the most significant unspoken topics we face in the world of business today. The topic centers around the chronically high level of disengagement we have historically in our organizations since Gallop started tracking it 35 years ago.
The figures are very telling. Gallop reports three areas of what they call Employee Engagement (EE):
– Employees who are Engaged in their work, meaning they regularly report an affinity for the type of work they do, are satisfied with their direct boss/manager, and have a positive connection to their organization as a whole.
– Employees who are Not Engaged in their work, are those who while may be somewhat satisfied where they work, are yet not mentally or emotionally connected to their work, their boss, or their workplace.
– Employees who are Actively Disengaged in their work, meaning that they are unhappy, unfulfilled, or just have miserable work experiences and they go out of their way to not work, interfere with others who are working, bad-mouth the organization whenever possible, excessively miss work or are tardy, and play the system.
I have been tracking EE for decades, and the percentages of each category amount to the following:
– The percentage of Engaged Employees has averaged around 30% of American workers. This has been rising slightly over the past 3 years and now sits at 34%, measured monthly. The higher number today is due to 10 years of a good economy – when looking back in the late 2000’s it dropped well into the 20% range.
– The percentage of Actively Disengaged workers has been hovering around 20% historically, while lately it’s dropped to 16%, mainly due to same economics.
– That leaves the Not Engaged. This group seems to be stuck at about 50% of all workers.
This means that about 70% of all U.S. workers, including management, are not fully engaged at work!
What a tragic loss for all of us!
Now data is data, but when we take a high-level view of this, what stands out for me are a two key things. One is that over the past 40 years we have been on a binge in the areas of management and leadership development. Look at the exponential rise in the number of books, MBA programs, seminars and learning programs on these two topics. One would think that would have moved the engagement needle a bit more that we witness. Unfortunately not!
The second takeaway is how many people are suffering, stressing, and wasting precious time, while at work! I include ALL levels of workers, from the lowest levels of the org chart to the C-Suite. I have witnessed the various levels of disengagement all my working career, and have seen the short and long term devastating effects unengaged and actively disengaged people suffer, which include: stress, health issues, difficulty sleeping, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, unable to relax or concentrate, difficulty thinking logically and making decisions, and low levels of happiness or satisfaction.
Conversely I see the negative impacts disengagement has on our organizations, driving lower levels of creativity, effectiveness, productivity, sustainability and profitability. These include: increasing absenteeism, increasing staff turn-over, impairing performance and productivity, increasing unsafe working practices and accident rates, increasing complaints from clients and customers, adversely affecting staff recruitment, increasing liability to legal claims and actions by stressed workers, and damaging the organization’s image both among its workers and externally
All of us at work need to raise our levels of awareness around the word ENGAGEMENT.
If you are an employee, ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10:
– How engaged am I at work?
– How much I love the work that I do?
– How much do I like my co-workers?
– How do I get along with my direct supervisor?
– How much respect do I have for my supervisor?
– How much do I respect the leadership of my organization?
– How much do I resonate with my organization’s statement of vision/mission/purpose?
– Am I willing to take full responsibility for my level of engagement in my work?
And, ask yourself: If I am significantly unengaged, what am I willing to do about it? If I am really unhappy, am I willing to find another opportunity where I will feel more fully alive at work?
If you are a manager or leader, in addition to the above questions, ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10:
– How engaged do you think your direct reports are?
– How do you know if your employees are engaged or not?
– What do you think you can do to elevate awareness on Employee Engagement with your team?
– Are you willing to receive feedback that you may be the reason some of your people are disengaged?
– If you are the reason some of your people feel disengaged, are you willing to make needed changes?
As a leader you may want to take these questions to your people and open up a new thread of dialog that will ultimately help you make a number of positive changes.
EE is a two way street. Leadership needs to do what it can to get better connected with their employees, know what is needed to provide an engaged culture, develop leaders to keep a high-awareness level around engagement, and make employee engagement a strategic priority. Employees need to look within and determine their own engagement levels, what they need to change in their thinking and behaviors to get better connected, or to stop causing their own and others suffering and find employment elsewhere.
Unengagement /disengagement are toxins that none of us, nor our workplaces, deserve or can sustain. My bet is if we all can boost employee engagement then we can sit back and watch how higher, better, faster, more innovative-productive-cost effective our organizations will become, which will open up new possibilities for making work much more meaningful and prosperous for all!