Honestly, none of this should be considered cause for anything but concern. If at any given moment, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. work force is disengaged from their job, what does this say about the effect of disengagement on productivity, and more importantly, who’s picking up the slack? The 30-some percent who are happy for the time being? Or some element of the 70 percent who are unhappy because they are doing their job and that of the thoroughly disengaged?
Gallup, by the way, defines engaged employees as those who are “…involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work.” Sounds pretty broad, but evidently there are a lot of people who check “NO” when asked whether they are any of these when it comes to where they’re employed.
The crazy thing is that studies have shown that a high degree of employee engagement translates to better overall company performance. In fact, Gallup found that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share and realize the following additional benefits:
- 41% fewer quality defects
- 48% fewer safety incidents
- 28% less shrinkage
- 65% less turnover (low-turnover organizations)
- 25% less turnover (high-turnover organizations)
- 37% less absenteeism
You’d think with these kinds of numbers companies would be scrambling to improve employee engagement. Particularly, when all of the above can actually point to some type of cost savings. Yet, the rate of employee disengagement points to the opposite. A significant number of companies must be content to let a majority of their employees come to work wishing they were somewhere else. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Besides conducting surveys and opinion polls, Gallup also has their Great Workplace Awards. The companies on that list represent all types of industries and have engagement numbers that are in the high 60s – more than double the national average. So what’s their secret?
What Gallup found is a pretty direct correlation between business outcomes and integrated engagement. Companies with highly engaged employees got there by being effective communicators, holding everyone accountable, rewarding performance, and providing opportunities for continuous learning and improvement.
While these seem basic enough, they are clearly more difficult to achieve than one would think. Keep in mind that while about 70% of employees in the U.S. are disengaged, that number goes up to 87% when you take the rest of the world into account. So this is a big global problem, and it won’t go away if upper management is content with the numbers being what they are.
Perhaps one solution would be to make companies as accountable to shareholders for employee engagement as they are for financial performance. Considering all of the research that shows the positive impact high levels of employee engagement have on company performance, that kind of shareholder demand wouldn’t be misplaced.
To even get to a solution, though, there has to be a general acknowledgement that these kinds of numbers shouldn’t be acceptable to management or to the general workforce. Life’s too short to be miserable at the place where you spend the majority of your time outside of the home.