Engagement_BoatEmployee engagement has become a very hot topic in the US and the across the globe. Companies are looking for every possible competitive advantage, and to have one’s employees highly engaged in their work sounds like a powerful competitive advantage.

First, what is employee engagement? Gallup defines the three states of employee engagement as follows:

Engaged employees work with passion and feel profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.

Not engaged employees are essentially “checked out”. They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting in time, but not energy or passion into their work.

Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what the engaged coworkers accomplish.

In a recent Gallup report, Employee Engagement Affects Key Business Outcomes

Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperforms the bottom quartile units by: Customer ratings 10%, Productivity by 21%, Profitability by 22% and lower Absenteeism by -37%, High Employee Turnover – 25%, Shrinkage -28%, Safety Incidents -49%, Patient Safety Incidents -41%

These are impressive figures based on the meta-analysis of nearly 1.4 million employees in 49,928 work units

So how is the world doing with employee engagement? In the most current State of the Global Workplace Report, Gallup reports that currently only 13% of employees in 142 countries are engaged in their jobs. And to make matters worse, twice as many employees are actively disengaged as are engaged in their jobs. That is a devastating statistic. And, this rate of disengagement has existed for several decades.

The global costs associated with these numbers are staggering. The emotional stress on workers and their families, and the lack of income and productivity is putting an incredible drag on the global economy and the well-being of its citizens.

A bit of good news? The United States has an employee engagement of 30%, which is one of the highest rates in the world. And, the US rate of actively disengaged employees is at 18%.

However, these numbers still mean that nearly one in five employees are actively disengaged and working against the engaged employees’ efforts to grow and better the organization. If you add this percentage to the 52% of US employees who are not engaged (they are just showing up, going through the motions and collecting a paycheck), we can better understand a recent survey that showed over 70% of employees in the US would leave their current employer if offered a job by another company. Yikes! What is an employer to do?

As I have followed these statistics for well over a decade, there has not been any significant change in the numbers. How have these numbers stayed consistent when improving employee engagement has been the hot topic for the last 10 years?

One answer (and not one that most leaders are going to like to hear) is that improving employee engagement, “Says easy, does hard.” Meaning, the concept and strategy of improving employee engagement is an easy one to understand. And, it is easy to appreciate the many benefits of improved employee engagement, including much lower recruiting and training costs, attracting the best talent, improved customer satisfaction and retention, improved productivity, and improved profitability. However, the hard reality is that improved employee engagement requires permanent cultural change, created by intentional and extensive training of leaders and employees. Improved employee engagement is a major investment of time, finances and resources.  And harder still, not every current leader is capable or willing to become an “engaging” leader.

The bottom line is this: for the future of companies competing in an ever increasing competitive and global economy, we are quickly approaching the time that high employee engagement will be the difference between thriving and going out of business.

In the days and weeks to come, we will continue to explore this topic in detail and provide answer to how companies can increase the numbers of engaged employees….significantly.  Stay tuned.