Open employee engagement
Open employee engagement

Why employee engagement should be on every leader's agenda

87 percent of the employed population in 142 countries are unengaged in their jobs. This hinders productivity and life quality worldwide. The solution? Good jobs, great leadership, and clear communication. And a little bit of Maslow.

By:  Solrun Sigfusdottir Øfjord, Communication Advisor (August 31,  2017)

According to Gallup’s report, State of the Global Workplace, only 13 percent of the employed population in 142 countries worldwide are engaged in their job. Meaning: 87 percent are not. They are just there.

The report dates back a couple of years, but recently, Gallup published the report State of the American Workplace. This is an iteration of the global report showing that only 33 percent of American employees are engaged in their work, which, albeit better than the global result, is way below the world’s best organizations, where 70 percent of employees are fully engaged in their jobs.

This is definitely food for thought as Gallup’s surveys also reveal that employees that are emotionally disconnected from their workplace are less likely to be productive. And even worse, that low levels of engagement among workers hinder economic productivity and life quality in much of the world.

So, employee engagement should certainly be a main priority on every top manager’s agenda. Great news – and old news – for us working within employee communication. We will not be running out of work the next couple of years.

But how do we turn these numbers around? The journey starts with good jobs and great leaders. And along the way, communication is the faithful supporter.

Good jobs are essential
According to Gallup’s workplace reports, a good job is the start. Of course, a good job varies from region to region. In some regions, a good job is just having a job to cover the bottom levels of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food and safety. Whilst in other regions, a good job equals prestige, recognition, salary and self-actualization. High engagement levels are also connected to education and jobs matching the employees’ knowledge and talent, though.

But regardless of regional differences, the reports show – not surprisingly – when everything adds up, we all want the same as the infamous millennials: a meaningful purpose, great leadership, and development opportunities. Engaged employees are those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work, and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.

Additionally, engaged employees are most likely to drive innovation and growth, build new products and services, come up with new ideas, create customer relationships, and ultimately boost the bottom-line – and thereby create more good jobs. As the worn-out saying goes, it really is a win-win situation.

Leaders must be recognized as engagers
When we move up further up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a great leader becomes more important to the employees and is an integrated part of ‘a good job’.

Gallup’s reports show that managers are held responsible for their employees’ engagement. This means that training and recruitment of managers with a knack for leading, motivating, supporting, empowering, and engaging employees should be in focus. Managers must be recognized as a primary driver for boosting engagement in the workplace.

Also, organizations should help take an active role in ensuring managers continuously focus and keep track of their employees’ engagement. And they should be helped to understand mechanisms of engagement and how to build it. No one is an engagement expert from day one as a manager.

Solution: Communication, involvement and engagement
Now we are well into connecting Maslow to Gallup’s research, we need to comment on collaboration and communication. What Maslow misses in his hierarchy is the fact that belongingness is a driving force of human nature. All the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy are dependent on our ability to connect with others and social collaboration with others. Without collaboration, humans have hard conditions to survive.

Here, communication plays a vital role in employee engagement. Companies must bring both formal and informal campaigns and conversations about engagement into the workplace every day. They need to include, involve and inform the employees in and about the workplace. Mid-level managers must set concrete objectives and have focus on day-to-day engagement, e.g. in 1:1 sessions, and turn it into everyday activities connected to the employees’ performance objectives.

And meanwhile, top management must set the lofty goals. They must practice visual leadership and both show and tell the importance of employee engagement and not at least why it is important. It is no secret or shame to be explicit about the fact that engagement and the well-being of the employees equals green numbers, profitability, growth and in the end more good jobs.

How about that, leaders? Employee engagement really pays off, so let’s help each other prioritize and raise the bar on employee engagement. And beautifully stated of Gallup – and I agree – companies, communities, and countries are dependent on it.

Download Gallup’s reports on employee engagement