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We’ve Entered the Era of Disengagement

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For the first time in a decade, the percentage of employees who are engaged in their jobs is declining. Steadily.

In fact, the number of engaged full- and part-time employees dropped from 36% to 34% last year, according to a Gallup poll. And this year, that number dropped to 32%, with the percentage of employees who say they are “extremely satisfied” with their organization as a place to work plummeting eight percentage points. Meanwhile, the number of actively disengaged employees—those who are defined as disgruntled and disloyal because most of their workplace needs are unmet—rose to 17%. Yikes!

My guess is that there are a few culprits behind this “era of disengagement.” First and foremost, pandemic burnout is real, and many people are no doubt feeling the strain of being asked to juggle too much with too little help for too long. Many have left in search of greener pastures, angling for higher salaries, more flexibility or other benefits; but as I discuss in another blog, one in five employees who have quit now regrets it, and only about a quarter are happy enough in their new jobs to stay. So it’s not much better for them, either.

I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, though. There are some steps organizations can take to ensure they are a desirable and fulfilling place for people to work. For example, you can:

Implement flexible working arrangements. It’s been shown that employees who work remotely or in a hybrid environment have higher levels of engagement than those who work exclusively in person.

Live your values. According to Gallup, “Employees need to see the intended culture and values lived out daily. The most successful organizations put their values at the center of decisions.” Prioritize employee health, well-being and productivity. And start at the top. Make sure your people see everyone from the CEO to their peers modeling that behavior. That way, “employees can see the organization’s values lived out through decisions, which builds trust in leadership.”

Communicate regularly. Nothing makes people feel seen and valued like regular and authentic communication. What does that look like? It means doing the research to understand where your team members are spending their time—and reaching them there. That might be email, town halls, podcasts, the company app, or all of the above. And encourage everyone to keep the lines of communication open.

Talk about the future. According to Gallup, there are five keys to success for improving engagement, and one of them is direct, growth-focused conversations with employees. “The only way to meet employees’ needs is through conversations that actively work to address those needs,” the report says.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of tips for improving employee engagement. What are some of your tried-and-true strategies for boosting engagement across your workforce?

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