engagement problem

In 2013, Gallup released their now famous State Of The American Workplace report that showed that 70% of American workers were not engaged at work.

Worldwide, the number of people not engaged was 87%.

Recently, Gallup released some updated engagement numbers and the sad truth is that the numbers have remained relatively unchanged.

gallup engagement

The number is now hovering around 32%, which is better than 30%, but still nothing to cheer about.

To make matters worse, these numbers haven’t changed much in 15 years.

So what’s going on?

Do too many companies have old-school thinking leaders? Are the initiatives most companies put in place a waste of time/money/energy? Is there something deeper going on?

Whatever the answer is, it’s clear that things aren’t working.

Most employees are simply not engaged at work. Companies are obviously not creating an environment where employees can really shine.

No one enjoys hating their job.

Employees want to go to work proud of what they do and contribute more and give it their all. The concept of mastery and purpose are very real, employees want to contribute to something bigger than them.

What Are Companies Getting Wrong?

According to Gallup, the biggest issue by far is that companies treat engagement as a one-time program rather an ongoing thing.

Most companies do an annual survey (and we all know the problems with those), only to either be misinformed or misled.

The most surprising part of what these companies do is that they think the act of simply doing an annual survey is enough, as if all of their retention problems will go away if they put together a survey.

Is that a joke?

The survey is only the first step. Once you measure, you need to improve, and you need to act.

A year is way too long of a timeframe to create that feedback loop.

Gallup’s research found that many companies will create surveys that only satisfy what they want to hear (they’re doing great!) instead of uncovering deeper issues.

In Officevibe, our employee survey questions are written by us and are not editable. We do this on purpose to keep things as unbiased and third-party as possible.

The companies that are getting this right are focused and heavily invested in employee engagement. They create a culture based on core values and an exciting vision.

They provide clear development opportunities for their employees and most importantly, they respect their employees. Things like autonomy and flex time are common in these types of environments.

Focus On Your Managers

Here’s something they’ll probably never teach you in business school: The single biggest decision you make in your job – bigger than all of the rest – is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing.Gallup CEO Jim Clifton

There are two important things to keep in mind when it comes to the managers that work in your company.

  1. Managers account for 70% of the variance in engagement scores
  2. Companies with highly engaged employees have opportunities for development

If you wanted to focus on one area to make sure engagement is improved, focusing on developing and training your managers is your best bet.

Understanding how big of an impact managers have on an employee’s engagement level, it’s important that we have the best people in managerial positions.

The problem is, most companies don’t have the right people in management positions. Ever heard of the Peter Principle?

Offering resources to help managers become better and holding them accountable to make sure they use the resources is important to making sure employees can work in a good environment.

Ways To Improve Employee Engagement

In order to seriously improve employee engagement, you need to have the idea of happier employees deeply embedded in your corporate culture.

Things like annual surveys, perks, bonuses, and suggestion boxes are not where the dramatic impact comes in.

Creating a culture where employees can come into work and use their strengths, develop their skills, and work with amazing people is where you’ll get your results.

  1. Collect Frequent Feedback

    Collecting frequent feedback, and acting on that feedback, is one of the easiest ways to show employees that you care about them and value their opinion.

    More than simply collecting feedback, it’s important to integrate feedback into your culture.

    Make employees comfortable enough to give their honest feedback, remove any of that fear that exists in most companies, and tell employees that you value their opinion.

  2. Offer Development

    Professional growth and personal development is by far the biggest driver of engagement. When an employee stops developing, they become stagnant and demotivated.

    This happens so often and it’s so easy to avoid.

    You just have to let employees have a say in what they work on and help them develop their skills.

    It’s really not as complex as it seems, it just requires you to trust them.

  3. Have Meaningful Perks

    The key word is “meaningful”. It has nothing to do with free beer and casual Fridays. The perks that matter are again all about showing employees that you respect them.

    • Unlimited vacations
    • Flex time
    • Work from home
    • Paid Maternal/Paternal leave

    Think about what these perks say to your employees.

    It says we trust you to use good judgement, you’re a grown up so let’s treat you like one.

  4. Be Transparent

    Again, this is all about showing employees that you respect them (see a common theme here?).

    When you’re transparent with your employees, especially when things aren’t going great, it makes you a more humble leader. That humility will earn you respect.

  5. Communicate Your Vision

    Get employees to believe in what you do and why you do it. Don’t just have them show up for work to collect their paycheck. Make them understand the bigger value that they’re bringing to the world.

    Practice and preach your core values, and help employees connect themselves to those values.

    There is no such thing as too much communication, so feel free to remind everyone of your mission over and over.

  6. Set Goals To Align The Team

    You want to set clear goals so that everyone understands their roles and there’s no ambiguity. Ambiguity can lead to confusion which can lead to employees becoming disengaged.

    You’ll want to use a cascading goal-setting system to make sure that everyone from the top-down is aligned and working together towards a shared goal.

How Do You Engage Your Employees?

Share your tips with us in the comments!