Are your employees disengaged? Most likely, a good portion would say yes. In the past, employee disengagement has been viewed as a productivity issue – and more recently a Millennial issue. However, the truth is it goes much deeper than how productive someone is at work, and certainly stretches across all generations.
According to 2001 Gallup Study on the American workplace, when asked how engaged they were at work:
- 19% describes themselves as “actively disengaged.” These are not people just sitting around not contributing, they are proactively sabotaging your culture. 19% of your workforce…let that sync in.
- 52% describe themselves as “not engaged.” They are just biding their time.
- 25% describe themselves as “engaged.” This group tends to do what they are asked to do, but not really driven to go above and beyond for your company’s mission.
- That leaves 4% who report being “deeply engaged.” They feel a strong bond with their work and the company, a genuine internal champion.
NOTE: In 2018, Gallup reported updated statistics. Although the numbers have improved somewhat, they are still consistent with the original 2001 engagement data, reflecting the crisis of disengagement continues.
On our most recent episode of The Culture Podcast – The Massive Crisis of Employee Disengagement – we had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew J. Sherman – a long-time University of Maryland professor, author, and partner at the Seyfarth Shaw law firm in Washington, DC. Andrew is a master at applying his knowledge of how strategic, financial, and transactional issues impact business growth, while recognizing the ever-growing importance of culture as the foundation of it all. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And we couldn’t agree more.
In his latest book entitled The Crisis of Disengagement, Andrew explores how the crisis of disengagement is permeating organizations and corporate culture around the globe. As Andrew points out, if you do not have employees who are engaged and a culture that motivates innovation and productivity, then it’s all for naught. But why are people today so disengaged? And what can we as leaders do about it? According to Andrew, some of the top reasons for disengagement today include:
- Social divisiveness. In society today, we have a lot of divisiveness – political, gender, income. What happens outside of work is spilling into the workplace – and we are not collaborating the way we used to.
- People want to know they matter. They want to know they are relevant, why they are working, understanding their impact. If they cannot connect these dots, they don’t think their work – or worse, yet themselves – matter.
- The introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace. Many people have checked out thinking they will be irrelevant or replaced with the increase of robotics and technology in the workplace.
- People feel underappreciated. Many employees feel they are not getting rewarded or recognized for the work they do, in ways that matter to them personally.
Much of this is based on studies of engagement, but there is a scientific neurological component – when people trust their organization and feel emotionally connected, they produce more oxytocin in their brains and in return are being more productive, more engaged, and have a higher sense of trust.
Ultimately, our goal as leaders is to create a workplace where our people feel safe and relevant – they know they matter and are encouraged to push forward with their career aspirations. So, to answer the second question – what can we do about it? – consider these two strategies as a starting point:
- Seek out a professional. Don’t be embarrassed to admit that your culture is not where it should be – it’s affecting your enterprise valuation, your performance and your ability to innovate. Take action.
- It’s not a money issue. Study after study show us that what people really want is beyond money. They want peer recognition, training, mentorship, career pathing, and to know they matter – how their piece of the pie fits into the larger objective.
Disengagement is a serious health, wellness, and safety issue for organizations. When you have a culture of pervasive disengagement over a long period of time, it can lead to anxiety, depression, stress, complacency, substance abuse , workplace violence, and negligence (just to name a few). Taking steps now to combat the level of disengagement in your organization is imperative to the health of your workforce and your bottom line.
To hear more from our discussion with Andrew J. Sherman, subscribe to The Culture Podcast. Feel free to visit Andrew’s website at https://www.seyfarth.com/ to learn more about his legal practice and hop on over to his Amazon page to view a full listing of his books – such a wealth of knowledge.
Successful Culture International is driven to help our clients create cultures where everyone thrives. To learn more about us, head on over to https://www.successfulculture.com/ to find ways to strengthen your culture and engagement.