10 Startling Employee Engagement Statistics

by Zoe Mackey

January 11, 2019

The numbers don’t lie: employee engagement and loyalty directly impact organizational efficiency and success ... and companies generally aren’t doing a great job on this front.

The data actually confirms what many expert talent managers, coaches, and leaders have known all along—unengaged employees who see little or no overall purpose in their work aren’t as productive and are more likely to jump ship.

In The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good, authors John Izzo and Jeff Vanderwielen write, “With a talent and skill shortage and a cultural shift from the ‘old ways’ of work, companies are competing over employees more vigorously than ever before. In this time of talent grab, you need to ask, What makes our organization or team stand out above the others? We have found that meaningful work is fast becoming the magnet for attracting top talent to an organization.” In other words, purposeful engagement can make all the difference in inspiring employees and teams to do great things.

Unfortunately, these startling statistics, 10 of which we’ve highlighted here, continue to undermine managers and HR departments in retaining top talent and creating supportive and purposeful workplaces. These numbers may seem a bit bleak, but we hope they will be a motivator to finding the right solution—with concepts such as career development, purpose, servant leadership, and more—for you and your organization, and ultimately raise your bottom line.

1. Eighty-five percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work.

Gallup’s 2017 State of Global Workplace Report found that 85 percent of workers from around the world are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their jobs. That’s a huge number of employees who are uninspired and, therefore, don’t feel motivated to do their best  But never fear; organizations can stave off this lack of engagement by honestly assessing what about their company cultures might be holding employees back. The solution: creating thoughtful employee development plans based on each employee’s unique goals and passions.

2. Seventeen percent of employees worldwide are actively disengaged.

Active disengagement is more than employees not putting forth the extra effort—it’s workers who don’t care to achieve much more than the bare minimum (if that), and who might even be so negative that their employment is a detriment to the organization. According to the same Gallup report as the last statistic, about one of every six employees is mentally checked out of their job. Much of this disengagement is the fault of the organization itself and its leaders—employees aren’t being nurtured, listened to, inspired, or appreciated. Executives and managers of all leadership styles must ask themselves why they are losing their employees’ enthusiasm and how they can become better at anticipating their subordinates’ needs and goals.

3. Engaged employees make their organizations 17 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable.

Great business leaders have always known what Gallup’s report confirmed: Engagement is beneficial not only for the employee, but also for the entire organization. Taking active steps towards achieving that engagement leads to a workplace where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to be creative. This provides two very important benefits—employees feel a sense of purpose in the work they do, and in turn, that motivation inspires and encourages employees to seek out new initiatives within the organization to help it grow.

4. Thirty-three percent of U.S. employees are engaged in their jobs, as opposed to 10 percent of workers in Western Europe and 6 percent in East Asia.

The Gallup report is brimming with interesting findings, and this one could be the most interesting: American employees are generally more engaged than their global peers. Perhaps many U.S. workers see their jobs as potential drivers for social change and, therefore, purpose, as evidenced by the growing number of B Corps. Also, this stat shows that a one-size-fits-all strategy toward employee engagement and loyalty simply doesn’t work. However, in the grand scheme, 33 percent is still a low number, with plenty of room for organizations to improve in engaging and retaining their workers.

5. Fifty-seven percent of talent professionals are challenged to create engaging employee experiences in learning.

Research by SilkRoad revealed that recruiters and HR specialists find it challenging to deliver great experiences in performance (46 percent) and onboarding (41 percent).  Attracting great talent is a continual goal, but keeping that talent can be equally challenging, which is why organizational culture remains so critical for productivity and profitability.

6. Ninety-three percent of employees in nonprofit work feel engaged.

Nonprofit employees often feel a stronger sense of “why” they are working at their organizations. Obviously, employees at nonprofits bring a different set of ideals, goals, and expectations to their jobs, but this finding, from a survey by Work for Good, is especially surprising because it’s so far above the U.S. average of 33 percent we mentioned earlier. However, employees don’t necessarily have to work at a nonprofit to feel like they are contributing to something greater than the bottom line. B Corps are growing in popularity and provide the best of both worlds to socially conscious workers—an organization that aims to be profitable and make the planet a better place.

7. Thirty-two percent of employees who leave a job within 90 days do so because of company culture.

Jobvite’s 2018 Job Seeker Nation Study uncovered that, amazingly, 30 percent of survey respondents have left a job within 90 days. Nearly a third of those new hires who bolt within three months do so because the company culture is a problem. Aside from how expensive hiring is and how costly high attrition rates can be, the most startling aspect of this stat is that it shows that new hires can tell if a company culture is toxic almost immediately. Moreover, 15 percent of respondents have turned down a job offer because of an organization’s culture. Servant leadership is one strategy to turn a company’s focus off its executives and onto its rank-and-file workforce. This strategy has a track record of creating a workplace culture that ranks high in engagement and success.

8. Thirty-three percent of employees want to leave their jobs because they’re bored.

When Korn Ferry surveyed nearly 5,000 professionals and asked why they were planning on looking for a new job in the subsequent year, one-third checked “I’m bored, need a new challenge.” Employees who feel they are stagnating may disengage or, worse, may seek better opportunities elsewhere. Improved employee development, including dynamic training programs, along with a sense of purpose can give workers a reason to stay and be engaged.

9. Seventy percent of males and 55 percent of females say their managers show interest in their career goals.

Udemy’s 2018 Employee Experience Report illuminated this troubling gender disparity: Male employees tend to get more career attention from leadership than female employees do. The gender gap, explored in depth in A Great Place to Work for All: Better for Business, Better for People, Better for the World by Michael C. Bush and Ed Frauenheim, isn’t just bad for the women affected by the disparity, but also for the organizations that subsequently don’t realize the same level of innovation, productivity, and profitability as their more inclusive competitors. Bottom line? Diversity and inclusion are good for business. This is more than just window dressing and empty promises—it means nurturing mentoring opportunities, better communication, and an honest assessment of what’s holding organizations back on the inclusiveness front.

10. Twenty-two percent of bosses think that employees who take a lunch break are less hardworking.

A survey by Tork revealed this head-scratching statistic and found that 34 percent of managers consider how often an employee takes a lunch break when assessing that employee’s performance. Micromanagement can drive the most easygoing employee to look for another job, and micromanaging lunch is clearly the opposite of servant leadership—the expectation that leaders work for the betterment of their employees. If managers are concerned about a half-hour lunch, they clearly aren’t focused on the employee’s well-being.

Undeniably, employee engagement matters. It affects everything critical to building a successful organization, from talent retention and career development to leadership development and workplace culture. However, the more frightening statistics we’ve highlighted, when taken seriously, can be catalysts for change if you’re noticing high attrition, loss of faith in leadership, and an overall lack of vision in the organization.   

As the authors of The Purpose Revolution write, “The job of leaders in the age of social good is to activate purpose, meaning they help bring out the latent good intentions and aspirations of employees to make a difference in the lives of others, society, and the environment and then translate those objectives into viable strategies and actions across the organization. … In addition to embedding purpose throughout the organization, they must also find consistent ways to focus customers and investors on the company’s authentic story of doing good.”

Topics: Your Team, Engagement, People and Culture

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