Employee Engagement Has Dropped: What Can Leaders Do?

Employee Engagement Has Dropped

Gallup measures employee engagement by taking random samples from working populations and asking them about specific workplace elements such as clarity of expectations, opportunities for development and opinions counting at work. These elements have an impact on many organizational outcomes, including profitability, productivity, customer service, retention, safety, and overall well-being. In their most recent report, they discovered that employee engagement has dropped for the first time in a decade.

Gallup’s report states that in the first half of 2021,  36% of workers were engaged, matching the 2020 composite result. But the second half of 2021 saw a drop, resulting in the annual figure of 34% engaged workers in 2021. In addition, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the United States is now 2.1 to 1, down from 2.6 to 1 in 2020. While this engagement drop has affected employees across various fields, pandemic-driven economic, and workplace, mental and physical health challenges have hit healthcare workers and managers particularly hard. They are experiencing the most significant drop in engagement and motivation, as well as the highest rates of burnout.

What Can Leaders Do?

This dramatic shift in employee engagement levels on top of unprecedented challenges leadership has faced in recent months, including record increases in employee quit rates, implementing vaccine mandates, and planning for various combinations of remote and on-site work, has many leaders at a loss about what their next steps should be. Gallup’s findings suggest that the best thing to do right now is to take a pause and think about the basics of employee engagement. Going back and focusing on the basics again is a great way to breathe new life into your organization and start rebuilding engagement rates.

Getting Back to the Basics

Gallup’s report found that of the engagement elements that they measure, the greatest declines were in clarity of expectations, having the right materials and equipment, and the opportunity for workers to do what they do best. These elements, along with tapping into their motivation, are foundational to employee engagement. Listed below are tips from Gallup and the Center for Creative Leadership on how to start improving both employee engagement and motivation:

  • Provide Clear and Frequent Communication from Leadership: In early 2020, nearly half of employees (49%) strongly agreed that their supervisor keeps them informed about what is going on in the organization. This figure has since slipped to 36%. Take the time to make sure your organizational priorities are clear and communicate as changes occur.
  • Show You Care and Be Supportive: Knowing your employees well and showing that you are invested in their success and overall well-being drastically improves both their engagement levels and motivation. From there, support each individual, be invested in their growth and offer assistance or guidance when they need it.
  • Be Authentic: Authentic leadership is one of the best ways to improve both motivation and engagement. Building trust and positive relationships within your organization inspires authentic behavior from everyone, which creates an environment that fosters engagement.
  • Empower Employees: CLL’s research on high-potential talent has found that high potentials don’t just want more responsibility in developmental assignments. What will increase their commitment and engagement to the organization, as well as their motivation to succeed, is more decision-making authority in developmental assignments.
  • Affirmation and Recognition: Being recognized for completing goals or simply a job well done has the power to fully unlock employee motivation. Employees who feel appreciated and valued are naturally more motivated to continue.
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