January 19, 2014

Employee engagement a two-way street

I took the opportunity when things slowed down during the recent holiday season to go through my “Must Read” file and actually read all those articles I wanted to read throughout the year but never did. Two of the articles caught my attention because they coincidentally touched on the same issue but from different perspectives.

The first was an article about Gallup’s The State of the American Workplace 2010-2012 Report. In that report, Gallup found that only 30 percent of American workers “were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace, 52 percent were “not engaged” and 18 percent were “actively disengaged.” Gallup defines the three types of employees thusly:

Engaged — “Employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company.”

Not Engaged — “Employees are essentially checked out” and do not put “energy or passion into their work.”

Actively Disengaged — “Employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness” by “undermining what their engaged co-workers accomplish.”

The report hit home because in my last job I had to work with partner organizations that had more than a few employees in the not-engaged or actively disengaged categories.

Surprisingly, the figures in Gallup’s report haven’t changed much since Gallup began tracking employee engagement. Since 2000, the figures have remained constant. The lowest “engaged” percentage was 26 percent in 2000 and 2005. The highest percentage is 30 percent, achieved in five different years. In 2009, the percentage of “engaged” employees was 28 percent and has increased by 1 percent each year since; the trend appears to be positive.

Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, on which their report is based, shows a strong correlation between employee engagement and business outcomes, including increased “productivity, profitability and customer engagement.” Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost American businesses between $450 billion and $550 billion in lost productivity annually.

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