Look at any three people in your workplace. Statistically, only one of them feels good about being there.
More than two-thirds of U.S. workers (70 percent) are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, according to Gallup’s annual “State of the American Workplace” report for 2013, which means they are “emotionally disconnected” from their jobs and “less likely to be productive.”
That’s bad news for companies that are already struggling to hire and retain talented employees in a competitive global market while trying to embrace the opportunities and challenges of an increasingly mobile workforce, meet the expectations of millennial workers, and help every employee realize his or her full potential.
How does employee engagement affect business growth?
Gallup’s research shows a strong link between employee engagement and nine key business outcomes, including productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction.
“Engaged employees are the ones who are the most likely to drive the innovation, growth, and revenue that their companies desperately need,” Gallup reports. It’s the engaged workers who build most of the new products and services, come up with most of the innovative ideas, create almost all of their company’s new customers, “and ultimately help spur the economy to create more good jobs.”
How to engage employees and unlock human potential
The Gallup study links employee disengagement, and the problems it brings, directly to poor management. Jacob Morgan, co-founder of Chess Media Group and author of “The Collaborative Organization,” offers some perspective: “As the world of work continues to change, so do the qualities and characteristics of the managers who are going to be leading our companies. Work is not the same as it used to be and we are seeing dramatic changes in both behavior and technology, not just in our personal lives but in our professional lives. This means that just because managers were successful in the past doesn’t mean they will be successful in the future.”
Conversely, good management leads to a direct increase in the number of employees who are engaged at work. Gallup found that managers who focus on their employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement in their organizations and double the number of workers who are engaged.
“Engaged employees have well-defined roles in the organization, make strong contributions, are actively connected to their larger team and organization, and are continuously progressing,” Gallup reports. The study also found that employees who spend part of their time working remotely are more engaged than those who are on-site full-time. And even though they don’t have a manager nearby to monitor their behavior, they tend to work longer—an average of four hours longer—than their on-site colleagues.
Unlocking human potential and the future of business
Morgan points to five trends that are shaping the future of work, affecting employee engagement, and challenging us to find new ways to unlock human potential in the workplace.
“The smart and progressive organizations around the world have already been making the necessary investments to adapt to these changes,” Morgan says. “Some have been doing so for several years already whereas many organizations are still trying to educate themselves about what these changes mean. Regardless of where you are in this spectrum, the future of work is something that you must plan for and adapt to if you want your organization to continue to exist.”
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