Engagement Among US Workers Has Dropped – Here’s What You Can Do About It

Gallup recently reported that the percentage of engaged workers in the US has dropped from an all-time high of 36% in pre-pandemic 2020 to 32% today.

As the article reminds us, engaged workers are important because they are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace; and based on data from the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, highly engaged employees are also more productive and loyal, and generally seek to contribute rather than just gain benefits from their employers.

Conversely, actively disengaged employees (17% of the US workforce Gallup tells us) are disgruntled and disloyal because most of their workplace needs are unmet.

The research indicates that this decline in engagement is due to five major things from employees’ point of view:

  • Unclear expectations
  • Lack of access to the right materials and equipment
  • Inability to work on the things they do best (strengths)
  • A sharp drop in the belief that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing
  • Lower connection to the mission or purpose of their organization

The Good News & What We Can Do
Despite the overall drop in engagement, there are organizations with much higher engagement scores. As the article stated, “Gallup’s Exceptional Workplace Award winners, for example, averaged 70% employee engagement even during a highly disruptive 2021!”

Here’s what they do differently:

  1. Use their organizational culture and values to guide business decisions. Employees need to see the intended culture and values lived out daily. It is important to listen to people and act based on employees’ work-life needs. The most successful organizations put their values at the center of decisions. Employees can see the organization’s values lived out through decisions, which builds trust in leadership.
  2. Embrace flexible work environments while developing plans for the future of work. Flexibility can take on different meanings for employees, but successful organizations embrace flexibility, acknowledge that there is some ambiguity about the future and quickly respond to changes as they occur.
  3. Focus on employee wellbeing and acknowledge the whole person.
  4. Tailor communication to reach teams where they are. Transparent and creative omnichannel communication to employees and customers (e.g., podcasts, a company app, virtual town halls, YouTube) is more likely to reach and resonate with a wide variety of people in many different work-life situations. It is important to rely on local managers to keep people informed and openly discuss organizational changes with their teams.
  5. Enable managers to manage through times of change. Consistently upskill managers to coach their employees through their strengths.