What Does Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Tell Us About Employee Engagement?

The majority of employees today are not engaged at work (62 percent) or actively disengaged (15 percent), according to a recent study.

Employee engagement is lower than executives would want—across the world, according to recent Gallup research. There may be a tendency to think disengagement is an American problem, but employees in other countries we may think of as more progressive also struggle with this challenge.

“The percentage of engaged employees globally—those who feel involved in and enthusiastic about their work—remains at 23 percent, matching the record high recorded in 2022, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report. But most employees are not engaged (62 percent)—those who show up do the bare minimum and are uninspired by their work—or actively disengaged (15 percent)—those who have a bad manager and a miserable job and are actively seeking a new one,” a piece by Jim Harter on Gallup’s site, summarizing the results of the survey, noted.

The survey found that even though countries with better job markets have a lower proportion of “miserable” workers, “they do not differ significantly in the proportion of highly inspired workers.”

The solution can be hard to figure out because managers themselves often are disengaged. I found that managers often model negative beliefs and behaviors, which then trickle down to their employees. For example, if there is a back-to-work directive and the employees agree to come back two to three days per week, but the manager (who lives the same distance from the office) refuses, resentment and disengagement are stoked.

Engagement Starts with Managers

The site, Built In, an “online community for startups and tech companies,” posted a piece by Kate Heinz last week with tips for improving employee engagement. The first tip is to “model your core values and mission.” Not much further down the list is to “make sure your managers are engaged.” If you have a manager who shows antagonism toward a corporate initiative, it can be worth having a conversation with them about how their recalcitrance could adversely affect their employees’ morale and engagement. How do you stay engaged when the person leading you is not?

Generally, whether it is modeling core values and mission or adhering to a new policy, such as a back-to-office directive, the manager must do what their employees are expected to do.

Volunteer Together

Setting up volunteer activities is in the top five recommendations from Built In to stimulate engagement. At a past job, we once all volunteered for a food distribution charity. It was fun having that time with people I usually only saw at their desks, and it gave me the feeling that we all shared similar values. It can be as engaging to realize that you have the same values as your co-workers as it can be alienating when you feel they don’t share your outlook.

Don’t Reward Unequal Performance

Recognizing and rewarding top performers is yet another way to heighten engagement, according to Built In. That said, I have experienced being treated the same as a person who was not performing nearly as well, and it is demoralizing. You start to wonder why you bother if the other people in your work group are doing much less, or a much shoddier job, and are being given the same level of recognition you are.

Suffer in Silence or Snitch?

With the push back to work in the office, it’s easy to see not just managers but colleagues who are lax about compliance. They might be back at the office, but they don’t arrive until 10:30 a.m. and they leave at 4 p.m. It’s like a person who agrees to at least “put in an appearance” at a party they really don’t want to attend.

An employee who feels their co-workers are not working as hard, or as well, as they are, or who notices a colleague putting in shorter hours, is in a tough spot. Most of us don’t want to be a snitch, but it can feel like suffering in silence.

It’s essential that managers keep close enough tabs on both their own behavior and that of their employees so they don’t miss a fast-spreading disengagement infection.

What have you found to be the best ways of building and maintaining employee engagement?