Employee Engagement is the Key to the Future of Business

"Everyone enjoys doing the work for which they are best suited." - Napoleon Hill


The Current Status of American Employees

An engaged employee is one who has an emotional commitment to their job and organization, and is thus extremely valuable as they support and facilitate the innovation, growth, and revenue necessary for business success. Engaged employees are an employers' dream, but like unicorns, they can be elusive creatures. According to Gallup's 2016 reports on the state of the workplace, there are 100 million full-time employees in the American workforce, but only 33% of American employees are engaged.1 Globally, engagement plummets to a paltry 15%.2  Even worse, 16% of American employees are actively disengaged, and the remaining 61% aren't actively disengaged or engaged, they are just...there. Yikes, that hurts! 

Not surprisingly the more disconnected employees are, the more likely they are to look for a new opportunity. Over 50% of U.S. employees say they are actively looking for a new job or keeping an eye open for opportunities and are most likely to look outside their current organization for an opportunity that meets their needs1

So that's the frustrating news. The good news? Slowly, but surely, employee engagement has been creeping up from 29% in 2010, and the changing demands of the workforce have been identified, so organizations have the opportunity to keep them engaged. 


What Employees Want 

In the past, the relationship between employer and employee was transactional - employers viewed employees as a tool to make more products and earn more money; employees viewed employers as a stable source of income and benefits. The way we work is changing and this simple contract between employee and employer has expired and is being replaced. 

Now, people want to do work they believe has purpose. The kind of work with opportunities to learn and advance, alongside people who value and respect them, in flexible arrangements that grant them ownership of their time. The soft "benefits" of ping pong tables, casual dress codes, and free beer on tap, once thought to entice employees, are fun treats, but they aren't benefits that will attract and retain employees. So what do employees want? They want a fit with role, company culture, and lifestyle. 

According to Gallup, employee priorities rank as such1:

  • Ability to do what they do best - 60% say 'very important'    
  • Greater work-life balance and personal well-being - 53% say 'very important'
  • Stability and job security - 51% say 'very important'   
  • Significant increase in income - 41% say 'very important'   
  • Opportunity to work for a company with great brand or reputation - 36% say 'very important'

While income is important, it's not the driving factor of job satisfaction or engagement. People want do what they do best, which will naturally set them up to be more engaged, especially if their other needs, such as flexible work styles, and other personal well-being and career-enhancing factors can also be met. 


Why Employers Need to Care about Employee Engagement

Employers need to understand the shift in what drives employee engagement because while having happy employees is great, it affects the bottom line:

  1. Focus on Employee Engagement is a Competitive Advantage - The job market will continue to become less about employees competing for jobs, and more about employers competing for employees.2 The Internet allows employees more ways of finding and evaluating jobs and facilitates flexible work styles, creating a global marketplace for talent. 
  2. Disengaged Employees are Costly - They cost the U.S. economy an estimated $483-605B in lost productivity, while engaged employees reduce turnover costs and drive sales and profitability.
  3. Brand Reputation Matters - Employees are increasingly driven by purpose and want to feel good about their organization. They want an emotional connection with the brand - its purpose for existing, how it treats employees and customers, and how people view the company. When comparing job opportunities, everything else being held equal, a company's brand can be the tie-breaker. 


How Employers Can Engage Employees

Organizations need to align their offerings with the demands of employees, in creative ways that benefit both parties. 

Does your current workplace environment entice or repel candidates based on employee demands as outlined above? Organizations must have a clear understanding of why they exist, what they offer to the world, and why someone would choose them over another organization, so you can create an employee value proposition that will attract the right prospective candidates. 

Since employees most want to do work they believe has value and allows them to do what they are best at, a lot of the responsibility falls upon them to identify opportunities that align with their skillset. But organizations can also work to engage the 76% of its employees who are disengaged by creating opportunities for people to leverage their talents, ideas, and insights outside of the confines of their job description. Cultivate Forecasts and Ignite allow organizations to tap into the intelligence of their people through crowdsourcing and empower employees to engage with their role and organization who in turn have some skin in the game. 

Understanding that the days of 9-5 office jobs are dissolving, adopting flexible work styles will behoove organizations to meet a major demand of employees. Keep in mind that while employees want a baseline of appropriate and competitive financial compensation, more importantly they want the opportunities for learning, growth, and promotion that accompany increased income. Ensure that there are opportunities for supported learning and growth in your organization to retain talent, or else they'll search for these opportunities external to your organization.


You might also be interested in: Flexible Work Styles and Their Place in the Future of Work


State of the American Workplace Report 2016 - Gallup

2 State of the Global Workplace Report 2016 - Gallup

Cathryn Wile

By Cathryn Wile

Marketing

leadership futureofwork employee engagement

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