One-Third of US Workers don’t feel Engaged in Their Work

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Wise people tell us the key to success in life is to “find your passion,”  something that most of us find easier said than done. According to a recent 2o16 Gallup poll, only about one-third of the USA workforce feel engaged in their work or workplace! This epidemic “lack of enthusiasm” has a negative impact on productivity. So what can be done to improve worker engagement?

disengaged workersAccording to a recent 2016 Gallup poll, only 32% of the US workforce are not “engaged” in their work or the workplace. So what does “engaged” mean? According to Gallup, being “disengaged” means workers are ambiguous about the work they are doing as well as the company they are working for. The implication is the lower the level of engagement, the lower the productivity. In fact, the engagement statistic tells us that only about one-third of US workers are “engaged” in their work. But here is a very telling statistic: over 70% of the variance in the engagement scores are strongly correlated to the perceived effectiveness of management to inspire workers. But is this really a surprise?

How many jobs are truly engaging and bring joy to the day-in, day- out the drudgery of repetitive tasks and boring work schedule? How many people, even highly paid professionals, look forward to getting up each day and going to work? Apparently, not too many. But the correlation of management ability to inspire to employee engagement raises an interesting point.  Is it really about “finding your passion” or being properly managed and motivated?

Here comes the sucker punch: the Gallup survey also found in its study of over 7,000 workers that 70% of employees leave work because of management issues! It’s well known that pay and benefits are not the major motivating factors why employees become engaged, we also know that recognition and corporate culture are the real key factors in the level of employee engagement and correlated levels of productivity. So are these dismal engagement statistics placed on the slumping shoulders of middle or top management?

We as individuals are responsible for our personal happiness. Human beings find it difficult to totally block out the rest of their lives when showing up for work. Indeed, imagine yourself back in your high school Algebra class. How many of your classmates were paying attention and focused on the class? Indeed, how many people learn how to focus on a task?  However, effective managers, like those few stellar teachers of boring subjects, these gifted folks have the talent to transcend the grayness of their subject and create ways to engage students and employees in the task at hand. The metaphor holds some important truth: stellar managers are similar to stellar teachers because they understand that motivation precedes engagement.

Good management realizes the fact that employees do become bored with repetitive tasks and need to be periodically stimulated and challenged to learn new things and experience new challenges. Too many companies buy into the concept that people don’t like change and prefer routine. That is a mistake. Yes, most people feel insecure when learning new things, but that should not stop managers from keeping workers engaged and focused by challenging them to stretch themselves. Likewise, good managers will be inclusive and engage all employees in a program of development and participation. Of course, each employee is different, and a good manager will recognize the tell tale signs when an employee needs to be more engaged and ask themselves the question: “What can I do to engage the employee? What would they be interested in doing? How can I make the job more enjoyable for them?”

The viewpoint of this article is that managers can have a direct effect on productivity by knowing how to develop engagement. Yes, all the tools that management gurus and MBA programs prescribe are important but the ability to motivate and engage are perhaps the most important tool a manager can have. This ability is called “leadership.” Some say that “leaders are born and not made.” Looking at the depressing employee engagement statistics, perhaps that belief holds true.

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