As noted last week, Gallup’s tracking of engagement in the U.S. over the past fifteen years shows little change in the number of engaged employees. While this leaves much to be desired and much room for improvement, we should have optimism for future results. According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform peer organizations by 147% in earnings per share. They also realize tremendous gains in quality output, employee safety, shrink reduction, retention and other key business outcomes.
These factors mean the difference between thriving, profitable companies and those that struggle. We have experienced similar results with our clients as well – concluding that positive results can be achieved, but sound engagement strategies and consistent execution are required. With optimism (based on results of organizations that are doing it right) we acknowledge that improving U.S. employee engagement is challenging – but worldwide engagement is downright staggering.
In an article entitled The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis, Annamarie Mann and Jim Harter report that according to Gallup, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged. If you are a glass-half-full type, you can confidently take the position that things can only improve from here. Consider as well that the not engaged global workforce (87%) can have serous and long-lasting repercussions on the global economy.
Contributing Factors to Low Engagement Results
Mann and Harter discuss some of the many contributing factors to these levels, with practical value for any organization seeking to improve employee engagement. One of the more salient of these is the tendency to focus on measuring engagement rather than improving it. Technology makes it easy to create surveys, gather data around employee perceptions and provide metrics – but these things alone don’t improve the workplace and business outcomes.
The article identifies other shortcomings as:
- Failing to address engagement with an ongoing, disciplined method
- Failing to make manager and employee development a part of the engagement strategy
- Measuring employee satisfaction or happiness levels and catering to wants – instead of treating employees as stakeholders of their future and their company’s future
Highly engaging and high-performing organizations employ best practices that improve engagement and performance. Most effective is the integration of engagement into their human capital strategy – as an ongoing process that works alongside regular business activities. Quoting Mann and Harter:
“Engagement isn’t determined by an abstract feeling; it’s the result of concrete performance management activities, such as clarifying work expectations, getting people what they need to do their work, providing development or promoting positive coworker relationships. For example, “expectations” are more than a job description.”
By taking a cultural approach to improving engagement, organizations are more likely to scrutinize critical engagement elements that align with performance, and are more likely to see positive results.