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Gallup Survey: US Employee Engagement Falls Across the Board; Hybrid Work Now the Norm

GALLUPNot only does the annual survey of about 15,000 workers show that only 32% of employees are engaged in their work, down from 34% last year and 36% the year before, but the ratio of actively disengaged workers increased by two percentage points from 2021 and four points from 2020.

Greater Declines Among Gen Z and Women
Disengagement Is Not Inevitable

Jim Harter, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for Gallup's workplace management practice, says that based on the latest survey, many organizations should take immediate steps or continue to suffer the hidden costs of high levels of disengagement that do not get tracked in organizational financial results.
Harter says the decline in employee engagement began in late 2021: The engagement elements that he says declined the most from the pre-pandemic record-high engagement ratio in 2019 to 2022 were:
  • Clarity of expectations
  • Connection to the mission or purpose of the company
  • Opportunities to learn and grow
  • Opportunities to do what employees do best
  • Feeling cared about at work 
The survey finds “a six-point decline in the percentage of employees who are extremely satisfied with their organization as a place to work. These are all indications that employees are feeling more disconnected from their employers. Clarity of expectations was lower across many demographic groups including age, gender, managerial status, remote working status, and job types. Other engagement elements were affected differently across demographic groups.”
The study suggests that “organizations are now beginning to settle into their new normal of hybrid work arrangements. Only 21% of those in remote-ready jobs are working fully on-site. Fifty-three percent of employees have some form of a hybrid work arrangement, and 26% are fully remote. The fact that these tendencies are stabilizing means ways of working in the future are more predictable. But these changes raise the bar on the need for high coordination.  The role of the manager has never been more important.”

Greater Declines Among Gen Z and Women

According to the Gallup report, engagement for those under age 35 (young millennials and Gen Zers) decreased by four points and active disengagement increased by four points compared with before the pandemic. Engagement among older workers (those 35 years and older) decreased by two points and the percentage of actively disengaged people in this group increased by one point. In comparison to older workers, younger workers experienced more decline in:
  • Feeling cared about
  • Having someone who encourages their development
  • Opportunities to learn and grow
  • Their opinions counting
  • Having a best friend at work
Women are experiencing a greater decline in engagement than men, the report finds. Engagement among women declined by four points and active disengagement increased by three points, according to the survey. Engagement among men declined by only one point and active disengagement increased by the same amount. Women, the survey finds, experienced larger declines in:
  • Feeling cared about at work
  • Having someone who encourages their development
  • Having progress discussions 
In terms of job type, “engagement declined the most among individual contributors and project managers -- the same group that saw the largest increase in the percentage who are actively disengaged. Engagement among project managers declined by six points and active disengagement increased by four points. This group also saw a decline in all 12 of Gallup’s engagement elements and overall satisfaction with their employer compared with scores from before the pandemic.”
The study reports that “engagement declined the most among healthcare workers (seven points) from 2019 to 2022. White-collar workers saw a four-point decline in the percentage engaged. For both healthcare and white-collar workers, nearly all the shift from engaged employees was into the ‘quiet quitter’ (aka not engaged) category as opposed to actively disengaged.”

Disengagement Is Not Inevitable

The Gallup report says that low engagement is not inevitable. “While only 32% of US employees overall were engaged in 2022, there are organizations that have more than doubled this percentage. Gallup's 2022 Exceptional Workplace Award winners, the company claims, averaged 70% employee engagement even during highly disruptive times.” These companies maintain “this level of engagement by using their organizational culture and values to guide business decisions, embracing flexible and hybrid work while maintaining strong connections between managers and employees -- keeping performance, collaboration, employee wellbeing, and the customer at the center of how work gets done. And most importantly, they equipped their managers with the skills and tools to have ongoing meaningful conversations with employees.”
In addition to conducting a “Gallup culture audit’ to review an organization’s current and desired culture, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, Harter recommends embracing hybrid work for remote-ready workers; establishing on-site days as Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and making sure that managers hold one meaningful conversation per week with each employee about goals, customers, wellbeing, and recognition.
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