You don’t have to look far to realize that employees need more from their employers. Covid-19 changed how people think about how they work in 2020. This was followed by the Great Resignation of 2021 and an epidemic of quiet quitting in 2022. Concerning trends continued in 2023 as employers tried to balance in-office, remote, and hybrid work styles.
Research shows that uncertainty and stress partnered with constant change has taken a toll on workers. 77% of employees are either not engaged or actively unengaged. Employee stress has hit an all time high with 51% of employees noting that they experienced a lot of stress at work. 51% of employees are open to – or even actively searching for – new job opportunities.
IT’S NOT JUST THE WORKSPACE; IT’S THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE
To put it plainly, employees are over it. They don’t want to be at their places of employment. The outcome: they’re leaving. And like with any breakup, they leave emotionally months – maybe even years – before they physically leave. This is a costly problem for any organization.
“Low engagement costs the global economy US$8.8 trillion and accounts for 9% of global GDP.”
Employees are the heartbeat of all organizations where success hinges on employee engagement, wellbeing, and morale. Not only do these factors impact attraction and retention, but they are deeply connected to productivity, creativity, and innovation. Therefore, it is not surprising that employee engagement and wellbeing impact revenue and overall profit. To put it in dollars and cents, “low engagement costs the global economy US$8.8 trillion and accounts for 9% of global GDP.”
These factors are no secret. Employee engagement, wellbeing and morale have made headlines for a decade. Yet, there is much to be desired in moving the needle. When asked what they would change about the company they work for, 41% of quiet quitters said that they would change engagement or culture. 28% stated compensation as an issue. 16% conveyed wellbeing. Workers around the world are looking for recognition, help with child care, and upward mobility. Some workers simply want clarity, a decent cafeteria, the ability to take a break, and low key ways to connect with co-workers.
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
There are companies that get it right. Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award winners are considered best practice organizations. Unlike the majority of organizations, over 70% of employees at these organizations are engaged. “Leadership and management directly influence workplace engagement, and there is much that organizations can do to help their employees thrive at work” as indicated in the State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report. Winners of these awards challenge the norms, embed engagement as part of their culture, and include employee engagement as part of their strategy. These companies not only listen to their employees, they invest in their employees. Contrary to the stats above, these companies have experienced positive business results.
Over 70% of workers at best practice organizations are engaged.
Those who score high in employee engagement see the following results in comparison to those who score poorly:
10% higher customer loyalty/engagement
23% higher profitability
18% higher productivity (sales)
14% higher productivity (production records and evaluations)
18% lower turnover for high-turnover organizations (those with more than 40% annualized turnover)
43% lower turnover for low-turnover organizations (those with 40% or lower annualized turnover)
The evidence is clear. Engaged employees lead to better business outcomes. However, employers are still grappling with how to leverage it as a competitive advantage. Employee engagement is subjective, and when pressed against a wall, it is easy to consider it a good-to-have vs. must-have for success. It does not surface as a top priority, and the cycle of suboptimal engagement and diminished results continue.
Employee engagement is embedded into the strategy of best practice organizations.
4 Actions Organizations Should Take to Increase Employee Engagement
1 Reduce decision biases. Whether it’s authority biases, confirmation bias, or one of the other nine types of decision biases, no one is exempt from operating with a biased lens. This causes us to buy into an idea before it has been fully vetted. Even more, we will go full UFC if we believe our solution is the lynchpin. We also forget that there are many ways to skin a cat. Organizations should leverage a process that addresses decision biases and removes emotion from the decision-making process.
2 Democratize decision making. Many decisions are made in a vacuum with little input from employees. Leaders often look at the numbers and fail to recognize the weight of employee feedback. Not only do workers know what customers need, but they are best poised to convey what they need from their workplace as well. Hearing from employees not only provides insight on how to move the business forward, a democratized process also allows workers to share and convey the importance of each insight.
3 Create transparency. Making business decisions is a weighty responsibility; responsibility that is carried by a number of leaders. In turn, there are a multitude of ideas brought to the table. Seeing all of these ideas in one place creates a broader lens and helps justify why certain decisions are made.
4 Include subjective criteria. “We can’t measure that” is one of the quickest ways to eliminate a proposed solution – even if it is promising. Organizations should be open to subjective criteria as part of their decision-making process. The reality is that subjective criteria such as spending time with colleagues or upward mobility may be more important than objective criteria such as pay.