Companies’ efforts to improve employee engagement largely are failing, according to new research from Gartner.
A survey of nearly 3,500 employees found that less than a third of them were “engaged, enthusiastic, and energized by their work.”
Gartner defines engagement as employees feeling energized, finding purpose in their work, and feeling empowered to do valuable work.
“Despite organizations making investments in engaging their employees, our research shows that almost 70% ... aren’t feeling a meaningful connection to their job,” said Keyia Burton, senior principal, advisory in Gartner’s HR practice. “Figuring out how to actually impact employee engagement is a huge priority because it has a significant impact on several key business outcomes.”
The survey also found that workers who report being energized and excited about their work are about a third more likely to stay at their organization and also to “go above and beyond” (i.e., exert discretionary effort), and that they contribute 15% more than non-engaged employees.
The survey also revealed a key issue affecting employee engagement is dissatisfaction with what happens after they provide feedback on their experience of their employer and workplace. In fact, Gartner said, only a third of employees believe their organization will act on their feedback, while almost half of workers wish their employer did more to address it.
Judging by another recent study, employers may have a somewhat rosier view of employees’ job satisfaction, something for CFOs and the rest of the C-suite to be aware of. More than half (58%) of 4,030 participating organizations surveyed by Gallagher, a provider of insurance, risk management, and consulting services, agreed their workers were highly engaged.
Still, Gallagher acknowledged, “it’s possible that employer perceptions don’t accurately reflect employees’ feelings, because just half [51%] of employers have conducted an in-depth employee engagement survey over the past two years.”
Gallagher also reported that 38% of employers elevated the importance of “career well-being” this year. However, that was the least-emphasized well-being initiative, falling behind employees’ emotional, financial, and physical well-being, which increased in importance at 74%, 49%, and 47% of survey participants, respectively.
"Just half [51%] of employers have conducted an in-depth employee engagement survey over the past two years.”
Gallagher 2023 Career Wellbeing Report
“When employers provide their employees clearly defined career trajectories, their workforces are more engaged, retention rates climb, and most importantly, business outcomes improve,” said William Ziebell, CEO of Gallagher’s employee benefits and HR consulting division.
Solving the Right Problem
Gartner, for its part, advises that, in their efforts to improve employee engagement, many companies are “trying to solve the wrong problems.”
HR often uses the feedback from employee engagement surveys to create enhanced or additional recognition and development solutions, Gartner said. However, employees may regard such offerings as increasing their workloads.
The Gartner survey found 40% of employees would prefer fixes to difficult processes over development opportunities. “To increase engagement, HR should engage in active dialogue with employees to identify and reduce work friction — the things that make employees’ days harder,” Gartner said in its survey report.
Additionally, three in five employees don’t understand what their organization is currently doing to increase engagement. Gartner said its analysis has found that in part it’s because “engagement” is an HR term that doesn’t resonate with employees.
“To increase engagement, HR should engage in active dialogue with employees to identify and reduce work friction — the things that make employees’ days harder.”
Gartner HR Research
HR needs to use a common, shared language to measure and talk about people and experiences — rather than engagement — with employees, according to Gartner.
“When HR takes action to make their engagement initiatives more relevant so that employees understand what the organization is doing to engage them, employee engagement increases by 49%,” said Burton.