The 2017 State of the Global Workplace report by Gallup highlights an important fact for employers, namely: the world’s productivity is in decline and it not only affects the availability of good jobs with a living wage, but it stunts societal and economic growth.
The resulting loss is valued around $7 trillion globally, and while it’s safe to say the 18 percent who are actively disengaged could – and should – move on, the remaining “unengaged” 67 percent may be just waiting for someone to ask them to do better.
Whatever the productivity levels in your company are, there’s almost always room for improvement, so what can you do to hit the right notes with your employee engagement?
Reasons for the Lack of Engagement
Let’s examine the reasons why such a large percentage of the workforce is insufficiently engaged:
1. Involuntary Idle Time
Top of the list is the issue of extensive idle time, during which workers are forced to wait for something to do. Some of the time spent idle is involuntary on the part of workers, as opposed to leisure time or procrastination, and is caused by issues such as:
• Excess capacity, where companies have more workers than they need (usually as insurance against busy periods),
• Poor work allocation, or badly-scheduled project dependencies, and
• Equipment malfunctions and breakdowns.
Whatever the reason, the inability of workers to complete necessary tasks is problematic for both the employer and the employee. For the employer, idle time costs around $100 billion a year, while the employee becomes discouraged, demotivated, and disengaged.
2. Voluntary Time Wasting
- Insufficiently challenged (35 percent),
- Hours are too long (34 percent),
- No incentive to work harder (32 percent),
- Generally dissatisfied (30 percent),
- Bored with their jobs (23 percent), and
- Being underpaid (18 percent).
The common thread across all these issues involvement, which indicates that the way to resolve the problem globally is to find a way to involve workers.
3. Social Media and Internet Usage
While social media isn’t a top reason for poor employee engagement, it is fairly high on the list, all the same. The Salary.com survey shows that 69 percent of male and 62 percent of female employees reported using the Internet daily for personal reasons during working hours.
4. The Role of Burnout
Given that 34 percent of workers feel their hours are too long, it’s no surprise that burnout makes the top four reasons for disengagement. And while it seems paradoxical when compared with the percentage who are insufficiently challenged and/or bored with their jobs, it’s a very real factor with 95 percent of HR leaders saying that employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce.
Burnout and disengagement are closely related, in that for engagement to take place employees need meaning, safety, and capacity for the work. If any one of these is missing, workers reach their physical, intellectual, and emotional limits, which results in burnout and disengagement from your company’s mission and values.
Ways to Improve Employee Engagement
Instead of waiting for the lack of engagement to reach crisis proportions, or until you find yourself losing key players, companies need to implement a plan to combat these problems. A number of options exist for improving employee engagement in your business, and those most likely to succeed based on the Gallup study are:
1. Create a Purpose. Set clear goals and expectations for the employee and constantly reinforce the company’s mission to create a sense of purpose for workers.
To engage employees in their work, it’s essential for them to believe in the company’s mission and goals. At the same time, helping them set achievable personal performance goals gives them an individual purpose, and studies show this increases engagement by 69 percent.
2. Focus on Strengths. Recognize what employees do well, so they feel their contribution is valued and makes a difference in the workplace.
The Gallup study indicates that when managers focus on employees’ strong points, 61 percent become engaged and only 1 percent view themselves as disengaged.
It’s easy to forget the importance of this, but even a “constructive” focus on weaknesses with the aim of coaching and improvement can be discouraging, if insufficient attention is given to what they do well.
When employees see a clear connection between their jobs and the company’s success, they are more likely to feel important and engaged.
3. Remedy Burnout. Keep a close watch for signs of burnout and implement measures to prevent it from taking hold. These factors can help you reduce your risk of burnout.
- Ensure fair and equitable treatment of all employees, and eliminate bias, favoritism, unfair compensation policies, and the chance of mistreatment by coworkers.
- Keep workloads manageable. Sometimes employees don’t know how to say “No,” and need management help to ensure they don’t become overwhelmed.
- Clarify staff roles so employees know what is expected of them in their jobs. This helps avoid them becoming exhausted trying to keep up with changing expectations and moving targets.
- Maintain frequent supportive communication – so workers know management has their backs – and reduce aggressive time pressures that can cause them to fall behind.
Improved employee engagement and productivity can make a huge difference to your bottom line, but these strategies require careful planning and expert implementation.