Why Are Employees So Disengaged at Work?

You may be familiar with the concerning statistics about the very small percentage of employees that are ‘engaged’ at work. Gallup places the number of ‘engaged’ employees at 31.5 percent in the U.S., and even lower worldwide, at 13 percent.

Certainly there must be some path forward, we thought, so we decided to dig a little deeper.

We fielded research to look at several dimensions of employee engagement – the frequency of communications, the impact of outside voices like media, and the ways employees talk with friends and family. Because employees can only share what they know and understand, we inquired about their ability to describe the company’s strategy to others.

Our research revealed four insights for communications professionals and management that can help cultivate better engagement with their employees.

Strategy matters to everyone – and impacts job performance

Do all employees need to know the company’s direction? Our research indicates that knowledge of company strategy actually can be a factor in employee performance. In fact, six out of ten people surveyed felt they would perform better at their jobs if they better understood the company’s direction. However, only one in five executives were very confident their employees could accurately communicate the company’s strategy.

Create an ‘always on’ company narrative, driven from the top

The research found that most leaders communicate to all employees only quarterly – not nearly often enough to make an impact – and as the company grows, communications become more infrequent. Smaller companies were more likely to have a CEO that communicates to all employees on a monthly basis. Chief executives should be leading the narrative and inviting employees to join the storytelling.

Realize that employees are taking their opinions home with them

Those disengaged employees are not keeping their opinions to themselves. They are on their social media channels, contributing to job sites and talking to their friends and family about their workplace experiences. We found that only 21 percent of executives were very confident that their employees speak positively about their company to friends and family.

External media is shaping employee views

In our survey, 91 percent of executives said outside media coverage plays a role in shaping employees’ attitudes toward the company. Earned media coverage will always carry risk, but the reality is that outside voices like the media and other experts are powerful influences. Executives should be using their media to affirm the positive aspects of the company and better inform their employees’ perspectives.

The engagement challenge is a complex one and any solutions must be multi-dimensional, multi-channel and substantive.  We invite you to look at our research here and share your own views.

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