employee engagement glass half emtpy or half fullSince its emergence in the 1990’s, the engagement industry has, as Gallup has said, taken on a life of its own.  Gallup began tracking employee engagement in the U.S. in 2000, and their findings have revealed little change since that time.  According to Gallup Daily tracking, with some slight modulation less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces during these 15 years.

Looking back to this post of two years ago, the numbers are similar enough to be almost interchangeable.  So, why have the results been relatively flat, even with the focus on engagement that has been so prevalent for the past several years?  Could it be that employee engagement strategies yield no positive results (glass half empty) for organizations that employ them?  Or, are we seeing the positive results of engagement strategies that have helped to prevent the not engaged and actively disengaged segments from increasing (glass half full)?

U.S. Employee Engagement Stagnant in 2015

In this Gallup article on U.S. employee engagement in 2015, Amy Adkins recaps the data and offers some factors that contribute to the stagnating levels of employee engagement.  Gallup classifies employees as:

  • Engaged Employees: Those that are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. Engaged employees support the innovation, growth and revenue that their companies need.  32% of U.S. employees are engaged.
  • Not Engaged Employees: These employees are just “marking time.” They aren’t hostile or disruptive; they just show up and do the minimum required with little or no extra effort.  50.8% of U.S. employees are not engaged.
  • Actively Disengaged: This group is comprised of employees that are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and are more likely to steal, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays and drive customers away. 17.2% of U.S. employees are actively disengaged.

Even though the yearly change in engaged employees was small (.5%), 2015 was a more consistent year when comparing month-to-month results.  In fact, monthly engagement averages did not drop below 31.5% in 2015, which was not the case in prior years.

Engagement strategies are beneficial when successfully executed – as Gallup’s research has repeatedly shown that employee engagement is strongly connected to productivity, profitability and customer engagement (all essential to an organization’s financial success).  So what are some of the factors that have led to the stagnant levels of employee engagement?  Adkins lists them as:

  • The definition of “engagement” varies from company to company
  • Companies may mistake an employee survey for an engagement strategy
  • Organizations don’t have a comprehensive human capital strategy – of which employee engagement is a part

So, is the employee engagement glass half empty or half full?  Next time we will continue the discussion with a look at employee engagement worldwide – and what lessons can be gleaned from it.

As Vice President of QIC, Jeff oversees daily operations as well as the company’s strategic marketing initiatives. He has 20+ years in the incentive and recognition industry with prior lengthy experience in retail marketing/advertising and consumer loyalty.

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