Employee engagement efforts are stuck in a rut.
That's the verdict from Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace Report. The latest study pegs employee engagement at just 33 percent among American workers.
That's not much of a bump compared to Gallup's 2013 report:
Gallup's report also noted that the best organizations have an average employee engagement rate of 70 percent!
So what do the results tell us? And, what actionable advice can we take away from Gallup's research? You can download the full report, or you can read the highlights below.
You'd expect Gallup to explicitly call out a definition early in the report, but it doesn't. In fact, I couldn't find a specific definition anywhere.
You can't improve something if you can't define it.
Imagine you wanted to be a football player because all of your friends were playing football. You spent a summer lifting weights. You practiced blocking and tackling. You threw passes and ran routes. Then, on the first day of tryouts, you arrive at the field and realize that everyone meant soccer.
Yeah, it's like that. So here's my definition of employee engagement:
Employee engagement is the extent to which an employee deliberately contributes to organizational success.
This means companies need to do two things to engage their employees:
- Make sure employees understand how the organization defines success.
- Secure employees' commitment to help.
Gallup's report does shed some light on a few issues that can help us improve.
Challenge #1: Culture
Jim Clifton, Gallup's Chairman and CEO, calls out culture as a primary culprit in the report's opening statement:
The very practice of management no longer works.
One of his top recommendations is to focus employees beyond just collecting a paycheck and build a culture of purpose.
I've spent the fast few years researching organizations with highly engaged employees for my new book, The Service Culture Handbook (April 4, 2017). Every single one I looked at had a clear, customer-focused purpose statement called a Customer Service Vision.
For example, Publix is one of the top-rated supermarkets in the country. Their customer service vision?
Where Shopping is a Pleasure
Think about the simplicity of that statement. Every Publix employee knows their job is to make shopping more enjoyable for their customers.
Once every employee commits to the same purpose, a culture is born. You can use this step-by-step guide to create your own customer service vision.
Challenge #2: Ineffective Management
Only 21 percent of people who responded to Gallup's engagement survey agreed that their performance is well-managed.
My research clearly shows employees have a de-motivation problem. New employees start their jobs full of hope and promise until management sucks the spirit out of them by making it difficult for them to succeed.
Here are some top management challenges according to Gallup's report:
- Unclear or misaligned expectations
- Ineffective or infrequent feedback
- Unfair evaluation practices
Let's go back to the definition of employee engagement. An engaged employee is committed to organizational success.
It's awfully tough to be committed if the definition of success is a moving target, your boss isn't giving you feedback on how to achieve it, or your boss isn't evaluating your performance based on your actual achievements.
Here are some more stunning findings:
- Only 30 percent strongly agree their manager involves them in goal setting.
- Just 44 percent strongly agree they can link their goals to organizational goals.
- Only 41 percent strong agree their job description matches their actual work.
It's a damning report, but employee engagement doesn't need to be a huge mystery. Great managers make sure their employees can answer three questions:
- What is our customer service vision?
- What does it mean?
- How can I personally contribute?
I'm facilitating a half-day workshop at ICMI's Contact Center Expo & Conference on May 22 where I'll share a step-by-step guide to engaging employees. You can learn more here.