Latest Findings on Employee Engagement: The Implications for Today’s Workplace

Latest Findings on Employee Engagement: The Implications for Today’s Workplace
Latest Findings on Employee Engagement: The Implications for Today’s Workplace

Employee engagement is key to a thriving workplace and research shows that companies that possess highly engaged teams outperform their rivals in business, across all sectors. Despite this, the Gallup report entitled Annual Employee Engagement in the U.S., World and Best-Practice Organizations has revealed that employee engagement scores have hit an 11-year low annually, with scores dipping the lowest for the Gen Z demographic.

According to the Gallup report, the first four months of 2024 saw employee engagement decreasing by three percentage points from the end of the previous year, to 30%.  This drop means that 4.8 million less employees are now engaged in their work, the lowest figures since 2013.

The most marked decreases were observed in four main groups – Gen Z, millennials, exclusively remote workers and those who work full time on site in the workplace. Gen Z, and full-time on-site workers both displayed a drop of six percentage points, in the first quarter of 2024.  During the pandemic, employee engagement rose, reaching peak levels in 2020, when figures show 36% of workers were “highly engaged” in their positions.

The Gallup survey drew data from a random group of 18,000 adults over the age of 18 and defines employee engagement by measuring levels of worker enthusiasm and involvement. As part of the assessment of engagement levels, the poll asked employees several key questions, including whether they felt they knew what was expected of them, if they felt in sync with their company’s purpose, and if they had opportunities to further their career.

When it comes to aligning with organisational purpose, on-site workers who held roles that could be done remotely displayed the most severe drop – from 38% in 2021 to 32% in the first four months of this year.  Though in the US at least, layoffs have risen and employee quit rates have fallen, this doesn’t seem to have positively impacted engagement rates, bucking the typical trend observed when jobs are scarce. Active disengagement rates, where workers are more than just unenthusiastic about their roles, have remained the same as the last quarter of 2023 for the first four months of this year, at 17%.

Baby boomers are the only ones defying the general pattern, with engagement rates for this sector increasing by two points since 2020, from 34% to 35% – while the percentage of actively disengaged workers in this demographic has also decreased by two points, from 17% to 15%. Engagement rates for Gen X by contrast, have declined by four percentage points, from 35% to 31%, while the percentage of actively disengaged workers in this grouping rose by one point to 18%.

The steepest decrease in engagement though can be seen in the millennial and Gen Z groups, particularly older millennials (born between 1980 and 1988), with the engagement rate for the latter group falling by seven points to 32%. Active disengagement rates for the older millennial demographic also increased – by five percentage points – to 17%.  Younger millennials and Gen z’ers saw a five-point engagement rate decline to 35%, while the percentage of workers who are actively disengaged in these groups rose by one point, from 13% to 14%.

Highly engaged employees consistently display greater levels of retention, wellbeing and productivity, while having lower levels of absenteeism. Gallup’s research poll identified 12 main elements that affect worker engagement levels – and having clarity over what is expected of employees is a major contributory factor.

Despite the importance of this element, across all age groups, the number of workers who feel they know what is expected of them in the workplace has decreased by 4%, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Feeling cared for by their employers is another crucial factor that feeds into engagement levels – and here the Gen Z and Millennial sectors have seen the biggest decline, of between five and nine percentage points.

These latest research findings will be helpful for employers seeking to counteract these negative trends, as they highlight the current problems the modern, permanently altered post-pandemic workplace has thrown up. By identifying the issues with engagement, employers will know where they need to improve, such as enhancing communication about the organisation’s mission and values, so workers have a purpose and feel connected.

Also, establishing clear expectations as to what employees should deliver and training managers adequately so they are equipped to meet the demands of the new hybrid workforce will be pivotal going forward. Presently 70% of managers surveyed by Gallup’s poll said they felt burned out and were either less engaged or were actively looking for other jobs.

Encouraging employee feedback is also critical to raising engagement levels, so that employers can respond to worker’s needs, ideas and opinions. This is particularly important to the younger generations, who are looking for more than just financial compensation and want roles which give them input and influence.

The research findings also highlight how to meet the needs of the new hybrid workforce, employers must continue to factor in flexibility, another key factor when it comes to engagement levels. Offering the ability to work flexibly to all employees, including those that work permanently on-site will allow the organisation to significantly boost satisfaction levels and therefore raise engagement.

Though the job market is holding firm, layoffs are increasing, while engagement levels in several age sectors are decreasing – and if this is not addressed, now, it will negatively impact the organisation.

Employee engagement is vital and shouldn’t be overlooked, as workers make decisions on behalf of the organisation daily, with the quality of these dependent on how engaged they are. Productivity also increases when employee engagement rises, which directly impacts the bottom line both in the short, medium and long term and the talent shortage presents companies with another thorny challenge, as they must work out how to attract and keep the best executives.

Increasing engagement levels will help employers mitigate the levels of detachment many employees, particularly younger people, are currently feeling in their roles. In turn, this will boost loyalty, as highly engaged employees are more likely to see a future at their current workplace, enabling employers to retain more top talent – which will be crucial to the organisation’s ability to survive and thrive long-term.



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