Since the turn of the century, Gallup has been tracking a metric about how engaged employees are in their workplace.
As of 2016:
34% were ‘actively engaged’, which was the highest number ever.
13.5% were ‘actively disengaged’, also the lowest rate ever.
53% of workers fell into the ‘not engaged’ category
So that’s almost 7 in 10 employees who are disengaged.
These statistics aren’t shocking if you’ve dealt with organizational culture before. Neither is the concept that engagement is essential to quality operations and service, so it’s worth paying attention to. Organizations should and do care.
But, what exactly is engagement?
It sounds very formal and clinical. Scientific and informational. Authoritative. Organizationally, it’s easy to define and you should define it for data analysis purposes, but what is it in practical, real-world terms? Would 7 out of 10 of your people just roll their eyes at the very question? Did you?
I believe that our business culture developed the word ‘engagement’ as a euphemism for a term that your average corporate academic tries to avoid: ‘Emotional connection’
Engagement can be tracked. It can be measured. It can be improved through the strategic application of resources. Emotions, eh, not so much…
Being emotionally connected is measured by one simple question:
“Do you care – Yes or No?”
Too simple to base a business case on for sure, but at the end of the day even the most hardcore numbers nerd is driven by underlying emotional drives. Emotions are messy and unpredictable. We’d rather not deal with them but they are always there. You can’t drive them away, at best you can master them. Our egos are the horse, our reason is in the saddle and sometimes just along for the ride.
Can you build a place where people care about their work? Yes, through conscious attention to culture and good hiring you can attempt to build a team that’s all rowing together in the same boat.
But, all workplaces are atomic in nature in that they’re made of smaller structural bits called ‘people’. Ultimately each person has to answer the question ‘do YOU care about your work? That’s hard because only the individual can answer it. If the stats are right, most would say ‘no’ or at least ‘meh’.
There’s no easy or right/wrong answer here but at the end of the day, the studies show a link to engagement and better quality outcomes in almost every field. If large numbers of your employees are just collecting a check- you should address that. It’s hard to change workplace culture but the outcome-to-investment ratio checks out. Managers and leaders know this and will, hopefully, try to tip the scales in favor of more engagement than not.
For the individual, the outcome is even more concrete: if you care you’ll not only do better at your job but have a better time doing it.
If you’re one of that 66% then you definitely need to address that. If you have the ability to change but take the easy path of just not caring, you’re essentially actively choosing to participate in creating a workplace of misery. It’s worth your time to explore how to change that for your own good and the good of everyone around you.
Life’s too short to not care.
Stats source: https://news.gallup.com/poll/241649/employee-engagement-rise.aspx