The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis


Here is an excerpt from an article by Annamarie Mann and Jim Harter for the Gallup Business Journal. To read the complete article, check out other resources, and learn more about the firm, please click here.

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The world has an employee engagement crisis, with serious and potentially lasting repercussions for the global economy.

Though companies and leaders worldwide recognize the advantages of engaging employees — and many have instituted surveys to measure engagement — employee engagement has barely budged in well over a decade.

Gallup has been tracking employee engagement in the U.S. since 2000. Though there have been some slight ebbs and flows, less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces during these 15 years. According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Worldwide, only 13% of employeesworking for an organization are engaged.

Why Aren’t the Numbers Moving?

With so many organizations focusing on engaging their employees, the question is: “Why aren’t engagement levels across the world increasing?”

Many different factors can lead to stagnant levels of engagement. Executives can find clues to answer this question for their company among the various ways organizations provide employee engagement data.

Gallup sees a clear divide emerging within the engagement industry. On one end of the spectrum are scientifically and experientially validated approaches that lead to changes in individual and business performance, supported by strategic and tactical development and performance solutions that transform organizational cultures. Though these approaches require more intentionality and investment, companies that use them are more likely to see increases in employee engagement.

At the other end of the spectrum are invalidated, unfocused annual surveys. Much like a traditional employee satisfaction survey, this type of survey usually measures a multitude of workplace dimensions that often have limited alignment with other business objectives and can be difficult to take action upon after receiving results.

Technology also makes it easy to create an “employee survey” and call it an engagement program, which allows a company to fulfill an apparent organizational need and “check a box.” But metrics on their own don’t drive change or increase performance. Many of these survey-only approaches measure employee perceptions and provide metrics instead of improving workplaces and business outcomes.

In reality, when companies focus exclusively on measuring engagement rather than on improving engagement, they often fail to make necessary changes that will engage employees or meet employees’ workplace needs. These shortcomings include:

o Viewing engagement as a survey or program instead of as an ongoing, disciplined method to achieve higher performance

o Focusing more heavily on survey data or reports than on developing managers and employees

o Defiining engagement as a percentage of employees who are not dissatisfied or are merely content with their employer instead of a state of strong employee involvement, commitment and enthusiasm

o Relying on measures that tell leaders and managers what they want to hear — “We’re doing great!” — rather than research-based metrics that set a high bar and uncover organizational or management problems that are hindering engagement and performance

o “Feeding the bears,” or measuring workers’ satisfaction or happiness levels and catering to their wants, instead of treating employees as stakeholders of their future and their company’s future

Though most approaches are well-intended, with an ultimate goal of improving the workplace and performance, too many contribute to a status quo that is not helping the business. Businesses must choose among these different approaches, and procurement departments often make decisions based on cost and proposed deliverables rather than on a close evaluation of the end-game deliverable of an improved workplace and performance.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

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