Only ⅓ of Employees Are Engaged: Why You Should Be Worried

blog Dec 04, 2023

Decoding Employee Engagement in a Changing Landscape

In the whirlwind of the end of the year, where days seem to blend into one another, many of us find ourselves exhausted and slightly overwhelmed by the relentless pace of work and the added layer of personal responsibilities associated with the upcoming holiday season.

It's a familiar annual saga where businesses strive to meet deadlines, and individuals juggle personal obligations, creating unique challenges.

Amidst this hectic backdrop, the concept of employee engagement emerges as a crucial focal point, prompting us to delve into its intricacies and the recent revelations surfaced by a study conducted by Gartner.    


Defining Engagement: Gartner's Perspective

In its recent research, Gartner defined employee engagement through a three-fold lens.

It involves measuring how energised employees feel, gauging their sense of purpose in their work, and assessing their empowerment to contribute valuable efforts. It's a nuanced perspective that extends beyond mere job performance; it encapsulates that elusive "secret sauce" — that distinctive commitment and passion individuals bring to their roles.

In her work "Keep 'em Keen," Karen Schmidt references multiple definitions of engagement. Still, they all converge on a common theme — the willingness of employees to go the extra mile without coercion.

It's more than just fulfilling job responsibilities; it's about that discretionary effort that adds an exceptional touch to their contributions. As described by Schmidt, highly engaged employees are all in, displaying loyalty and trust. Knowing how to spot disengaged employees can help you nip any trouble in the bud and help you keep great staff.



Stages of Engagement: A Spectrum of Commitment

Engagement isn't a binary state; it operates on a spectrum with distinct stages — highly engaged, engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged.

The pinnacle is the state of being highly engaged, where employees are not just meeting expectations but surpassing them, resulting in increased productivity and profitability for businesses. This is ideally the level of engagement you’d like to support across your team, but you’ll find that this isn’t always the case.

There are several reasons why your formerly engaged employees might waver in their focus. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to watch for these signs and know how to support them through predictable periods of disengagement.

Year-End Blues: Normal or Cause for Concern?

As we navigate through the end of the year, it's natural for individuals to experience a sense of weariness and distraction. It can be easy to misread your employees’ disengagement at this time of year for typical year-end fatigue. The end of the year is also often when your employees reevaluate what’s working and what isn’t, alongside new year resolutions. It’s a time when we see significant staffing shifts across industries as employee seek better-fitting alternatives to their existing role.


Why the Concern? Unraveling the Impact of Disengagement

The timing of employee disengagement couldn't be more critical, especially as we approach the year-end. Gartner's research sheds light on some surprising reasons behind this phenomenon.

Employees, dissatisfied with how their employers might respond or fail to take action based on their feedback, are erecting barriers to engagement activities. This perceived lack of responsiveness becomes a stumbling block, rendering traditional engagement efforts ineffective or counterproductive. It's a poignant reminder of the significance of trust and effective communication in maintaining an engaged workforce.


Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation: The Core Dilemma

Gifts, parties, and other extrinsic motivators can only go so far. The heart of the matter lies in employees feeling heard and witnessing tangible actions based on their feedback. Gartner's findings underscore the importance of aligning intrinsic motivation — the desire to contribute meaningfully — with extrinsic motivators for a holistic approach to engagement. So, as you’re thinking about ways to thank and reward your team, consider how you can demonstrate this beyond material gifts.


Leadership's Role: Do What You Say, Listen, and Act

Leadership plays a pivotal role in this scenario. Trust is fragile, and leaders must uphold their promises, actively listen to their teams, and take tangible actions based on feedback.

The research signals a critical need for introspection — are leaders doing enough to bridge the gap between intent and action, and are they fostering an environment where employees feel heard and valued? Is their team culture something that’s just talked about or embodied meaningfully? Are your employees in the best roles for their skills and interests? Do you have underperforming employees who are counteracting the positivity and productivity of your overperforming team?

With only 31% of employees currently feeling engaged, the majority operating in a state of disengagement demands urgent attention.

As we approach the year-end, it's an opportune moment for leaders to reflect, reassess engagement strategies, and commit to fostering a workplace culture where employees are heard and actively involved in shaping the organisation's future.


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