Engaging at work
Gallup has been conducting an ongoing study of the U.S. workplace. Its most recent incarnation, “State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders” examines findings from 2010 to 2012.
The goal is to help business leaders figure out what they can do to improve worker engagement and performance.
The executive summary reflects both the rapidly changing economic changes business leaders have faced, as well as the snail’s pace at which many systemic changes come: “While the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially since 2000, the state of the American workplace has not. Currently, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70 percent) are not reaching their full potential — a problem that has significant implications for the economy and the individual performance of American companies.” Gallup defines “engaged employees” as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.”
Seventy percent represents a staggering number of people who are disengaged. But the fact is, we have all worked with these individuals and know the toll they take on the workplace and their colleagues.
For employers, keeping workers engaged is critical. Gallup found that workplaces with the most engaged employees had much higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings, less turnover, fewer accidents and lower absentee rates. To further illustrate the bottom-line impact, Gallup found that companies with 9.3 engaged employees for every one disengaged employee enjoyed a 147 percent higher earnings per share compared with their competitors; companies with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every disengaged worker were 2 percent below competitors on earnings per share. Gallup estimates that the disengaged employees are costing our nation $450 billion to $550 billion a year in lost productivity.
So how can companies engage the disaffected? Put good managers in place. Use employees’ strengths. Listen to employees. Set and communicate clear goals.
And what can employees do? Share ideas. Communicate concerns and problems. If what you are doing isn’t the right fit, find something that does interest you.
This holiday has its roots in a bloody conflict over worker rights in the Pullman Strike in the summer of 1894. It has morphed into an end-of-summer celebration. But if possible during your barbecue or while you are mowing the lawn, or – for those the day is not a holiday – as you go to work, take a moment to think about whether you are engaged in what you – and for business owners and managers, what you and your employees -- are doing, and whether it’s time to make some changes.