We began this blog almost a decade ago (that went by fast!), and as a provider of incentive and recognition solutions, a large percentage of posts naturally comment on employee engagement and organizational culture. With the arrival of the new year came a sense of cautious optimism which thankfully has gained traction during the first quarter of 2021. One of my favorite terms for 2020 compares it to a roller coaster ride – a ride so wild we longed to get off and plant our feet on solid ground.
The complications, disruptions, and upheaval experienced during the pandemic season continue to challenge in ways that will have permanent ramifications throughout society and the workplace. The most overused term of 2020 has got to be “pivot” – and the term remains a popular way to describe the seemingly constant re-evaluation and adjustment brought by pandemic challenges.
Successfully managing and leading an organization is challenging regardless of industry or size, and employee engagement is important, especially in times of crisis. The Gallup organization reaffirms the link between employee engagement and performance, having analyzed global and U.S. engagement trends for over two decades:
“If employee engagement is strong, business units are at an increased advantage and more resilient than their peers. They are also at an increased disadvantage and less resilient if employee engagement is weak. The opportunity – and vulnerability – is magnified during a recession or crisis. As a conclusion, thriving and resilient cultures endure through good times and bad.”
Gallup’s latest study, U.S. Employee Engagement Rises Following Wild 2020, shows that although 2020 saw unprecedented fluctuations in workplace culture worldwide, U.S. employee engagement increased to 39% in January 2021, up from 36% late last year. At the same time, 14% of employees were actively disengaged, resulting in a 2.8-1 ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers. As the study points out, if this were to hold for all of 2021 it would be a new record level of employee engagement in the U.S.
While employee engagement rose, manager engagement remained low – declining from 34% to 33%. Perhaps this can be attributed to the additional pressures exerted in 2020, but manager engagement has consistently been lower in past studies. Companies that invest in developing skilled and effective managers have higher levels of manager engagement, which produces teams that are more likely to be engaged.
The good news? Employee engagement has improved. The challenge? Manager engagement must improve to sustain the positive trend.