Only two in 10 U.S. workers are actively engaged in their work and are thriving as a result. The other eight — not so much. And who’s at fault? Bosses from hell.
That’s the conclusion of a Gallup data crunch that reviewed thousands of responses from managers and employees since the end of the latest recession. Despite an expanding economy and all the supposed “lessons learned” about management practices during and after the recession, employee engagement has increased only marginally, the pollster found.
“Gallup research shows that managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually,” Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton said in a preface to the main report, “State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders.”
What Gallup reported after reviewing its data is that, of the 100 million full-time U.S. jobholders, 70 million are not engaged at work, with 20 million of those so disengaged that they do more harm than good on the job.
“Having the vast majority of American employees not engaged with their workplaces is troublesome as the country attempts to recover ground lost during the financial crisis and get back on track to pre-recession levels of prosperity,” Gallup observed. “Even more troubling is that workplace engagement levels have hardly budged since Gallup began measuring them in 2000, with fewer than one-third of Americans engaged in their jobs in any given year.”
The billions of dollars that Gallup says are lost to the economy because of poor management practices can be attributed to myriad factors: higher-than-necessary health costs, lost time on the job, poor quality workmanship, and on and on.
Part of the problem is that four in 10 employees don’t know how their company, its products and its services, and its very brand, are distinguishable from the competition. That alone represents a massive failure in management communications, Gallup said.
The worst levels of engagement can be found in the service industry, where employees actually interface on a regular basis with the end customer. “Engagement levels among service employees — those workers who are often on the front-line serving customers — are among the lowest of any occupation Gallup measured and have declined in recent years, while engagement for every other job category increased,” Gallup said.
If Corporate America could only learn from the high performers, the nation’s economic engine could be fine-tuned and would begin to operate at record levels, Gallup said.
“Work units in the top 25 percent of Gallup’s Q12 Client Database have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25 percent,” the surveyors said. “Organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share compared with their competition in 2011-2012. In contrast, those with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2 percent lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period.”
Gallup said management policies had little to do with performance and employee engagement. Far too many policies that look good on paper aren’t implemented with any awareness, and still lead to disengaged workers. Even such traditionally hallowed practices as having workers’ butts in seats where they can be managed by onsite managers were debunked by the data. “Remote workers actually log more hours at their primary job than do their on-site counterparts,” Gallup said.
What to do? Gallup says corporations need to spent more time and money hiring the right managers and training them with employee engagement as a quantifiable outcome that directly affects a manager’s career trajectory.
Setting such metrics is a key, Gallup says, and they need to be responsive to the particular workforce that is being managed.
“The employee engagement metrics companies use can affect their ability to create changes in performance,” Gallup advises.
“Often, organizations make the mistake of using employee surveys to collect data that are irrelevant or impossible to act on. When a company asks its employees for their opinions, they expect action to follow. Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement metric was designed with this expectation in mind — the data the Q12 survey collects are specific, relevant, and actionable for any team at any organizational level, and they are proven to affect key performance metrics. Why? Because the Q12 measures employees’ emotional engagement, which ties directly to their level of discretionary effort — their willingness to go the extra mile for their company.”