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Gallup Report: Employee Engagement Is in a Rut

But you can give it a boost. New data from Gallup shows that unclear expectations are holding teams back--but managers are your secret weapon.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Chances are your company has an employee engagement problem--and it's time to act on it.  

Just 33 percent of employees in the U.S. were engaged in 2023, according to the new report from Gallup, the analytics and advisory firm. While this measurement reached 34 percent at the midyear mark, it had tapered off by the year's end.  

Employee engagement increased for a decade, peaking at an annual high of 36 percent in 2020. But in 2021, it declined to 34 percent and fell even further to 32 percent in 2022. In 2023, the U.S. needed a "rebound," per last year's Gallup report--particularly as unengaged and actively disengaged employees led to approximately $1.9 trillion in lost productivity nationwide.  

This year's data does show a slight improvement: The percentage of engaged employees increased by one point in 2023, and actively disengaged workers declined from 18 percent in 2022 to 16 percent in 2023. But the boost is underwhelming, says Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist at Gallup: "It's not at the level it needs to be." 

A few key factors are holding teams back, Gallup found--namely, unclear expectations, low levels of satisfaction, and a weaker connection to the organization's mission and purpose. All three measures have worsened from four years ago.  

Role clarity is a particularly troubling weak spot, Harter says, as it is the "most foundational element" when it comes to engagement at work. The percentage of employees who understand what is expected of them at work has dropped dramatically in the last four years, especially for exclusively remote and hybrid employees--12 and 13 percentage points, respectively.

The Gallup report identifies a few potential causes, including additional job responsibilities for employees, team turnover during the "Great Resignation," and, notably, the 70 percent of managers who haven't had formal training on leading hybrid teams.  

Thus, managers--and trained managers, specifically--could be a key part of the solution. Indeed, Gallup's previous research revealed that the manager is the dominant part of the employee experience.  

Of course, managers already have a full plate, but even seemingly simple changes can make a big difference for employee engagement. To start, leaders could instruct managers to give meaningful feedback to their employees each week, as the lack of this weekly feedback made up the largest decline associated with the drop in clarity of expectations, per the report.  

Managers can use this feedback time to talk about goals, priorities, strengths, and collaboration. "If there is that kind of cadence with managers and employees, then we can be more effective than ever, because you're combining autonomy with great managing," Harter says.  

But the time to double down is now, as the "new-normal workplace" sets in, the report suggests. Indeed, research shows that work-from-home time has essentially flatlined in 2023. "My fear is that, as time goes on, we're going to have a group of organizations that are even further separated from one another in terms of the quality of their culture. We're going to have the haves and the have-nots," Harter says.  

That said, it's clear that organizations can get this right, he says: "It's just a matter of putting a lot more emphasis on managers and their roles, and how we can make their roles more effective and efficient in this new workplace."

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

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