Employee engagement has fallen. How do we improve it again?
Updated 28th January 2023
The jury’s in, employee engagement is falling. But what does this mean for businesses, and what can you do about it? Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to building up the level of employee engagement in your company. But we can at least steer you in the right direction, so keep reading to find out how to improve employee engagement in 2023!
Gallup’s research shows we must prioritise engagement
Granted, things have cooled down from the record-breaking stress levels we saw just a couple of years back. So, you might be thinking, ‘Hey, my employees work hard. Why do I need to worry about how to improve employee engagement in 2023 when we're through the worst of it?’
But global engagement levels have really taken a beating in recent years. Global employee engagement fell to 20% in 2020, the first time it’s failed to increase since Gallup’s reports began in 2009. This reached a boiling point in 2021 with the Great Resignation. Things are just about stable. But, even now, according to Gallup's 2022 report, global engagement sits at just 21%.
Unfortunately, according to Gallup's findings, only a third of employees worldwide rate themselves as "thriving" in terms of wellbeing. While there may be stability, there's a clear and present gap between employers' duty of care and their ability to provide it.
Employee engagement is absolutely essential
So, before we break down how to improve employee engagement, let’s get a couple of things straight.
Although people disagree on the exact semantics of employee engagement, there’s a growing body of evidence showing how it can impact employee performance and business success. Compared to companies with low employee engagement, businesses with highly engaged workforces are actually more than twice as financially productive.
Engagement isn’t a direct measure of productivity. But the fact is that, when employees aren’t engaged, they end up lacking the intrinsic motivation to do more than the bare minimum. That means you can say goodbye to any discretionary effort you might have been getting from formerly motivated staff members.
And that’s not even getting into the issue of turnover, which can quickly become a massive expense. It may even be looming closer than you realise. Microsoft’s survey of over 160,000 employees during the Great Resignation found that 41% of the global workforce planned to leave their current employer in 2021. It turns out disengagement may even have driven people away from whole sectors. 46% were planning to make ‘a major pivot or career change.’
It’s difficult to have engagement without supporting wellbeing
With only a third of employees worldwide rating themselves as thriving, it makes sense employers are struggling to engage their people. The fact is, wellbeing is usually one of the strongest determining factors when it comes to employee engagement. As much as some managers might insist otherwise, it’s not entirely possible for people to just leave their issues at the door when they come into work.
Physical, mental, social and financial issues can all affect practically anyone. It's all too easy to overlook or dismiss wellbeing issues that aren't visible, physical health problems. But poor mental health, social isolation or financial difficulties can affect everyone. In fact, the number of people struggling financially is on the rise. An Ipsos poll for the World Economic Forum found that 1 in 4 people are struggling financially. A UK-specific FCA survey confirms these results almost exactly, with just under 8 million people struggling to pay bills.
And when we don’t get the support that we need to deal with these things, the idea that we can be expected to continue performing effectively is laughable. Fortunately, the events of the pandemic have dragged employee wellbeing to the forefront. Employee wellbeing was put under a spotlight back in 2021, but it's no less important now.
How to improve employee engagement in 2023
Global engagement has hardly budged over the past couple of years since dropping to 20%. Bearing that in mind, we’ve put together three tips for how to improve employee engagement in 2023:
Don't overlook your hybrid and remote staff
Remote work has become pretty normalised since the Pandemic. But even so, when you’re out of sight and out of mind, it’s easy to fall out of the loop. Be sure to liaise with your remote teams on a regular basis to update them regularly on the latest company objectives and policies. Despite the name, a remote-first approach gives everyone equal access to the same info and communications tools.
But even when they’re in the loop and working hard, it’s unfortunately still easy for remote workers to be ignored. They’re actually some of your most productive employees, so make sure to highlight their accomplishments and give them opportunities to collaborate with different people in the business.
Give employees channels to raise feedback
When employees can’t speak up, they’ll either leave or suffer in silence. The latter is a surefire route to burnout. Employees need to be able to raise problems affecting their engagement levels.
That might look like frequent employee check-ins, a manager’s open-door policy, or any other way you feel you can build a dialogue with employees. Just make sure you follow through with the workplace issues that employees raise. Otherwise, they’ll just become even more disengaged because communication seems pointless.
Focus on all forms of wellbeing
We won't waste time repeating what we said earlier. What we will say is that you should avoid trying to take a one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellbeing. HR must take a multi-layered approach to wellbeing if they want to be effective. Sick days and flexibility for medical or psychiatric appointments are just the most obvious layers. Other ways you're responsible for their wellbeing is by helping staff to bond socially and even the compensation they earn.
Build social connections with your staff and give employees access to knowledge resources such as professional financial advice. These are just two steps that could markedly improve engagement and wellbeing in your business. But you also need to consider whether your employees have a good work/life balance, and if you’re compensating them fairly for their time and effort.