Last year, a Gallup survey titled “State of the American Workplace” found that there are 30 million engaged employees in the U.S., and they are the workers who often create the majority of innovative ideas, generate the greatest number of new customers and have the most entrepreneurial energy.
That sounds like great news until it becomes apparent that there are 70 million other employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. Instead of contributing to their companies, these individuals cost American businesses a staggering $450 to $550 billion annually.
Such findings should be a cause for concern among business owners, who would much rather have employees contributing to the company rather than actually costing the company money, which can affect the bottom line.
While the definition of employee engagement varies, the term generally represents the commitment level a worker displays toward his or her job and employer. Poorly engaged or totally disengaged employees can have a negative impact on a business in key areas such as quality control, absenteeism, customer relations, innovation and teamwork, not to mention overall morale. Employees who do not care about their jobs or do not see the success of their employers as relevant to them place their companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Why do such workers stay in their jobs? One reason, of course, may be the state of the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. A need for benefits, especially health insurance, also is often a major factor. And sometimes, inaction on the employee’s part is the overriding factor.
Clearly, the lack of employee engagement is a problem that businesses should address with a sense of urgency. They can begin by evaluating their company culture. Does it create an environment in which all employees, regardless of their experience level, tenure or position, feel that they are truly an integral part of the company’s success? Do ownership and/or management effectively communicate on an ongoing basis in a way that makes employees feel connected and gives them the opportunity to be heard? Are the goals of individuals, managers and executives aligned? Do these groups have the tools to work successfully together?
When employees do not understand the business’s direction or culture, or how they fit into the company and its success, they are likely to be disengaged and may feel like outsiders in their own company. It is significant that the Gallup report cited above reported that only 41 percent of workers surveyed “felt they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.” Disengaged employees may also feel disconnected from their team and believe that they are not making any progress.
Determining and elevating the level of employee engagement should become an essential part of every company’s operations. Managers at all levels should be made aware of their responsibilities in this regard, and given the tools to help employees become more engaged. Furthermore, disengaged workers who do not respond positively to coaching and intervention should be considered as candidates for possible dismissal.
Employee engagement affects profitability and growth, and business owners who take the necessary steps to properly engage their workforce will benefit from higher productivity and an enriched level of employee commitment to their company’s reputation and success.