In the News
Lisa's Fresh Thoughts
Employee Engagement - Today and Looking Forward
By Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective
Gallup began tracking "employee engagement" in 2000. In 2014 engagement was at the highest level since 2000.
Don't get excited. Less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014, up from 29.6% in 2013.
Improvement, yes. However, that reality should function more as a 'wake-up' call to business leaders than anything to celebrate.
Worse, in addition to the 51% who were "not engaged", 17.5% were "actively disengaged: in 2014.
While there are certainly organizations that have consistently demonstrated high employee engagement throughout that timeframe, the reality is today they are the exception, not the norm.
How did we get here?
Somehow in the midst of new business realities, many leaders lost sight of taking care of what they often SAY is their most valuable asset their employees. The cost of failing to consistently reinforce to employees their value to the company will be substantial. Moving forward considerably more will be required than simply increasing emphasis on "employee engagement" as in years past. While many leaders downplayed the impact of employees on the business, the workforce became more diverse and now typically place even greater emphasis on their role within the organization.
The world is a very different place. Organizations' workforces exemplify extreme change, diversity and considerably different expectations at the same time they demonstrate how critical they are to achieving sustainable business growth and profitability.
Employees were called upon to make sacrifices when business was really tough and they did so. Productivity increases were commonplace. But when industries and organizations within began to experience increased revenues and profitability, although many greatly rewarded senior leadership, the typical employee gained nothing. Those who went 'above and beyond' to help were not recognized for doing so, and have yet to return to wage levels that, when inflation is taken into account, are even on a par with mid-2000s levels.
Additionally, because jobs were scarce across numerous industries, employees stayed where they were. Their 'presence' at work, however, often did not equate to actively engaged and highly productive employees. As statistics show, more than two-thirds of a typical workforce has been relatively unproductive if not downright destructive.
Second, asking the tough questions, listening to learn, and acting on what you learn will all be required. Prepare to step out of your comfort zone.
Third, it's often beneficial to look backward to see how various changes impacted the organization. Given the pace of change in recent years, understanding the varied elements that led to today's status will provide good guidance. With this knowledge, envisioning and creating the desired future will be easier to achieve.
Consider several types of workforce knowledge you need as a base to get started:
On the one hand the daily demands on business leaders are numerous, urgent and substantial. On the other hand, failing place the value and take the steps necessary to create a well-functioning, vital, engaged and productive workforce with well-aligned values and a desirable culture may be far more costly in the big picture. It is imperative that leadership genuinely understand, and demonstrate that understanding; an engaged and productive workforce is central to the organization's future success.