A stressed out man working at a desk

This is a free excerpt from one of Shortform’s Articles. We give you all the important information you need to know about current events and more.

Don't miss out on the whole story. Sign up for a free trial here .

What does Gallup’s employee engagement report mean for employers? How can employees overcome obstacles to engagement?

According to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report, the average global employee engagement score is 23%. Employee engagement is crucial because it translates to productivity, synergy, and creativity, which in turn lead to an organization’s success.

Here’s why employees are disengaged and what it means for companies.

Fewer Than 1/4 of Employees Are Engaged in Their Work

The good news from Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report: Employee engagement is slowly increasing worldwide. The bad news? The global average is just 23%—meaning less than a quarter of employees around the world are enthusiastic about their work. In the US, the figure is 32%, with 17% being “actively disengaged.” Here’s why the employee engagement report matters to employers.

Why Engagement Matters

What makes an engaged employee? Experts say it’s one who feels a strong connection to the organization and is invigorated by their job. While this is certainly good for employees’ well-being, it also makes sense from a business standpoint: 

Obstacles to Engagement—and How to Overcome Them

Gallup points out that engagement isn’t inherent in employees; rather, it’s something an organization can foster. Let’s explore some of the barriers to engagement and what your organization can do to address them.

  • Lack of trust in leadership. Gallup reports that less than a quarter of US employees strongly agree that they trust in their organization’s leadership. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this lack of trust as companies kept close tabs, Big Brother-style, on remote workers and employees struggled with burnout and mental health issues.
    • The fix: Make sure your words align with your actions. Employees need security, which comes from knowing what to expect, so communicate your decisions and follow through, be consistent in your behavior, and behave with integrity at all times.
  • Less-than-desirable work setups. Now that we’ve put “unprecedented times” behind us, it’s business as usual for many organizations—which means 90% of companies expect employees to return to the office by the end of 2024. This doesn’t sit well with employees who’ve adjusted to remote or hybrid work: One survey found that the majority of workers would consider quitting if they had to go back to on-site full time.
    • The fix: Realize that hybrid work environments can be good for business—according to research, organizations that allow for flexibility in terms of work setup saw increased sales and faster revenue growth. 
    • To maximize the hybrid work setup at your organization, Gallup recommends strengthening communication and collaboration among teams, revisiting how you manage performance, and equipping managers with the skills to manage people remotely.
  • Stressed-out managers. Team leaders bear the brunt of many changes, having to communicate directives from above and work directly with employees through changing circumstances. Being overloaded leads managers to feel less engaged and less valued, and this is especially problematic because good managers are a big reason employees stay with a company. 
    • The fix: Give your managers more training and support so that they’re equipped to deal with changes, to coach employees who aren’t at the office full time, and to keep asynchronous teams aligned.
    • Another strategy is to conduct a “good-riddance review”—this entails pinpointing what can be eliminated to help managers and employees feel less overwhelmed and more engaged.
  • Fear of AI. Anxiety can keep employees from feeling engaged, and the specter of artificial intelligence (AI) can add to their fears. One report reveals that more than half of employees don’t feel equipped to work with AI and other new technologies.
    • The fix: Going back to the matter of trust, be sure to clearly communicate plans about AI’s—and employees’—place in your organization. If AI will play a key role moving forward, you should invest in training and upskilling your employees.

Further Tips for Engaging Employees

In When They Win, You Win, employee experience expert Russ Laraway says that poorly trained, ineffective managers may be at fault for low employee engagement. However, there are solutions: managers must develop their leadership skills to greatly improve their team’s morale and performance. 

These tips will help managers engage employees and keep them at the top of their game.

1. Encourage Collaboration and Team-Building

Team-building encourages employees to step outside their comfort zone and collaborate with other workers. They’ll not only feel more connected to other employees, but to the organization’s purpose itself. According to Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais, there are three main ways your teams should interact with each other: cooperation, guidance, and the consumer-provider model.

2. Support Employee Autonomy

The second way you can learn how to engage employees is by embracing autonomy, meaning you give employees control of their own work. Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan’s principle of autonomy is based on the assumption that people are trustworthy, intrinsically motivated, and capable of problem-solving. In a context where leaders expect these qualities in their employees, Dignan believes that employees will fulfill these expectations. On the other hand, if leaders believe that people are extrinsically motivated and need to be micromanaged to do good work, people will also internalize and fulfill these expectations.

Having autonomy means that employees control their work as much as possible. This requires leaders to trust individuals and groups to self-manage and make decisions on their own (or with input from peers as needed) rather than simply following instructions from a higher-up. For example, if someone needs new software to finish the project they’re working on, they should be able to purchase it quickly on their own, rather than asking a superior for permission, filling out request forms, and waiting for approval. This process is time-consuming, costly, and frustrates people who are prevented from doing the important work. 

3. Help Employees Advance Their Careers

The third focus area for figuring out how to engage employees is career development: helping employees to plan and realize their long-term career goals, not just their current job goals. Notably, this focus area includes helping your workers advance their careers even if doing so means they eventually leave your company. 

We’ll examine When They Win, You Win’s suggestion of using three crucial meetings to build the foundation for an employee’s career development. We’ll then discuss how you can gauge your effectiveness in this area.

The Three Meetings

Career development should be an ongoing process with each of your employees. However, to be effective in this focus area, Laraway recommends setting three meetings with each employee, each with a specific focus. 

At the first meeting, ask your employee how they got to their current job role. Ask about their past—their education, their previous jobs, and why they applied for their current position. Knowing your employee’s history will give you a more thorough understanding of them as a person, including their interests, shortcomings, and job skills that may not come up in their current position. This understanding will make you better able to help them find and get their dream job

At the second meeting, ask about their goals and their aspirations. What do they hope to get from their current job? What do they hope to accomplish over the next year? Five years? What’s their ultimate career goal? 

At the third meeting, work with the employee to create what Laraway calls a Career Action Plan (CAP). In short, this is a plan to get the employee from their current position to the dream position that they described in the second meeting. What skills will they need to develop? What work experience will they need? How can they accomplish this, and how can you help as their manager? 

Career Development: Measuring Your Effectiveness

To find out how effectively you’re helping your workers with their career development, Laraway suggests asking employees to rate you in the following two categories: 

1) Constructiveness. Ask: How well does your manager support your career development? How helpful is your manager’s advice about your career? How frequently does your manager encourage you to take on new challenges or learn new skills that may help you in the future? 

2) Care. How strongly do you agree with the statement, “My manager cares about me as a human being, not just as an employee?”

4. Create a Psychologically Safe Environment

In The Fearless Organization, Amy C. Edmondson says that leaders must create a safe space to engage employees. In this type of environment, employees feel comfortable asking questions, engaging in debate, and learning from one another. Building psychologically safe work cultures enables workers to tap into their creativity and innovate.

As a leader, you can encourage employees to speak up by asking thoughtful questions and putting structures in place that support your efforts to engage employees. This will bring workers into the fold, inspire them to replicate the behavior you want to embed in your organizational culture, and foster employees’ belief that what they have to say is important.

Gallup’s 2023 Employee Engagement Report Is Concerning

Want to fast-track your learning? With Shortform, you’ll gain insights you won't find anywhere else .

Here's what you’ll get when you sign up for Shortform :

  • Complicated ideas explained in simple and concise ways
  • Smart analysis that connects what you’re reading to other key concepts
  • Writing with zero fluff because we know how important your time is

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *