The Truth About Engagement

The truth about engagement has been troubling to follow.

Truth About Engagement Gallup, the well-respected polling company, has studied employee engagement for a number of years. They define engaged employees as ones who are are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work, and who contribute positively to their organization. In 2013 Gallup reported US employee engagement at just 30%.  In 2017 there was a small bump in the the numbers, up to 32.5 %. Is that enough to be hopeful?

Okay, truth be told, I know employees aren’t happy and engaged. I continually interact and work with employees, so know their stories. I also know women are leaving the workforce in droves to start their own businesses. That sure sounds like disengagement.

I reflected on my final dozen years working in the banking industry. Even while living through the chaos of repeated banking mergers, lack of engagement wasn’t anything close to 70%. My mind got curious and I wanted to find out a little more.

I learned there are really two levels of disengagement:  About half of disengaged employees show up but are checked out. They put in their time but have no energy or passion for their work. The remainder are actively disengaged. They’re unhappy, act it out, and spread dissension.

Managers are key in employee engagement. “Managers from hell” create active disengagement, costing the US an estimated $450 – 550 billion annually. On the other hand, a great manager can virtually eliminate active disengagement and double the amount of engaged employees.

Engagement varies by organization, work-group, industry, occupation, and personal characteristics such as length of service, age, education level, and gender. Some examples:
• Millennials are most likely to leave their job within a year if the market changes.
• Generations at the beginning and near the end of their careers are often more engaged.
• Employees with degrees are less likely to have a positive and engaged experience.
• Remote workers and women are slightly more engaged.

A quote in the study resonated with me, as long as it’s meant with sincerity, not manipulation. “To win customers (and increase market share) companies must first win the hearts and minds of their employees.”

The quote took me back to my corporate days and the times I was more engaged than others? What was my truth about engagement? Who were the company leaders? Who were my managers? What was their role? Yes, my managers were important, but what responsibility did I take for my engagement, for my attitude, for asking for what I wanted, and for staying in a situation that wasn’t working for me?

My heart goes out to the millions who are passively or actively disengaged in the workplace. I hope they all find a way to bring more passion, joy, and engagement into their work.

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