Just when we thought we were making progress on employee engagement, the U.S. took a step backward in 2022, according to a new Gallup report. The study found that while the number of engaged workers held steady at 32% last year, the number of actively disengaged employees rose to 18%.
While we’ve thankfully gotten past some of the pandemic-related challenges of the early 2020s, it’s no time to take our eyes off the road or feet off the gas when it comes to employees’ personal and professional well-being. Addressing the structural, operational, and cultural issues that create disengagement in your organization is the first step to laying the foundation for a new and better employee experience. It’s good for talent and the bottom line.
When you take active steps to listen to employees and address problems, positive business outcomes follow. Read on for the four major benefits of employee engagement in 2023.
Increased retention (and less quiet quitting)
When employees become disengaged, they often stop caring about their work and disconnect emotionally. Some will start job hunting and jump ship as soon as a better opportunity comes along, while others may choose to “quiet quit” and keep collecting a paycheck while doing the bare minimum.
As Adam Weber, 15Five’s SVP of Community, said, “The ideology behind quiet quitting has become popular because workplaces have deprioritized what’s important to so many employees when it comes to how, where, and why they work… Workers are no longer willing to feel taken advantage of.”
Highly engaged teams experience a 40% reduction in turnover on average. Investing in employee engagement and focusing efforts on the things employees care about will not only make them more likely to stay with your organization but also motivate them to do their best work.
Greater productivity and bigger profits
Employees can only perform at a high level when they’re set up for success, with the right tools, processes, and guardrails in place for optimal productivity. Creating an engaging, motivating, and supportive employee experience increases productivity and, in turn, profits.
Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, examined the financial data of hundreds of companies and found that those that invest in employee experience had more than 4 times the profits and 2 times the revenue.
“Looking at the data, it’s clear that there is a significant return to organizations that focus on employee experience over the long term, not just engagement in the here and now. Adobe, for instance, has an EVP of customer and employee experience and is making considerable investments in real-time employee feedback programs, beefing up diversity and inclusion efforts, giving employees access to consumer-grade technologies, and building workspaces according to multiple floor plans to accommodate different styles and preferences.”
Less burnout and better employee health
Burnout isn’t just some exaggerated concept or catchall phrase to describe tired workers; it’s a bonafide syndrome recognized by the World Health Organization. The WHO says burnout results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” with symptoms that include “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, negative feelings toward one’s career, and reduced productivity.”
The WHO isn’t the only organization worried about burnout; the CDC reports that one in three workers report high levels of stress at work, causing physical and mental health problems that can include depression, poor sleep, heavy drinking, and memory problems.
Many workplace factors that cause employee disengagement are also the culprits behind burnout. Employees who say they very often or always experience burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day, 13% less confident in their performance, and half as likely to discuss goals with their managers.
By addressing engagement drivers like capacity, role clarity, and manager relationship, organizations can reduce the stressors that lead to burnout and help employees live healthier lives.
Reduction in absenteeism
Everyone gets sick or has personal obligations that occasionally require some time off work. But when an employee demonstrates a pattern of habitually coming in late or calling off without a legitimate reason, it’s called absenteeism.
Studies have shown that as an employee engagement level increases, absenteeism drops. One study found that by implementing engagement strategies, a hospital surgical unit was able to reduce absenteeism among nurses by 27.5%. This is critical in the healthcare field, where patient outcomes rely on a fully-staffed care team.
For HR leaders, implementing engagement strategies related to work-life balance (e.g., increased flexibility, remote work options, increased PTO) can help employees better manage their schedules and reduce unnecessary absences.
As Forbes Human Resources Council member Jessica Delorenzo shared, “There is usually a deeper issue contributing to excess time off. Take a human-centered approach to treat these employees as individuals. Show care and concern for the extenuating circumstances that may be affecting attendance. Provide company-sponsored resources where appropriate. Treating employees this way reinforces the relationship the company has with its workforce.”