According to Gallup, the U.S. employee engagement slump continues. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees has been falling consistently since 2019, hitting a recent low in 2022 of just 1.9 to 1. For every 19 engaged employees who are out there giving a company their all, another 10 are actively working to undermine those efforts.
On the surface, it might sound like the balance is in favor of engagement. After all, there are almost two engaged employees for every disengaged one. But Gallup has also reported that it takes 4 engaged employees to counteract the negative effects of a single disengaged worker. At just 1.9 to 1, the level of engagement today isn’t even halfway there.
The declining engagement ratio and the trend of “quiet quitting”
If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #quietquitting on more than one video of a disgruntled young person complaining about their job. At over 37 million views on TikTok alone, the trend is hard to miss.
Still, in case you’re unfamiliar, the phrase doesn’t actually refer to quitting. It’s quiet quitting because it describes the process of doing the bare minimum required by a job description. Among many Gen Z employees, it’s considered a well-being movement — an attempt to counteract today’s “hustle culture” and preserve their work-life balance. But a Gallup poller would probably call it active disengagement, especially since employees are proclaiming their “quiet quitting” on TikTok — openly and loudly.
Either way, the trend is a clear indication that positive employee experience is relatively scarce. Unhappy employees are making their voices heard, and human resources professionals would do well to listen.
The father of employee engagement speaks out on quiet quitting and employee experience
Professor William Kahn of Boston University is credited with inventing the term “employee engagement,” but he took great pains to correct that misapprehension in a recent interview with Forbes. The term, he says, was originally “personal engagement.” It wasn’t about getting employees to do more work but about creating a company culture where people could bring more of themselves to their work experience — ”the person they most want to be.”
In the same interview, Kahn identified the three elements required for that to happen:
- A sense of psychological safety in their work environment, where they feel safe expressing their thoughts and ideas
- A sense of personal meaning in their work, so they care about their contributions on a personal level
- A sense of calm wellness without distractions, preoccupations, or worries about either their work or their personal life
In other words, Kahn’s original 1990 paper about personal engagement at work was really about shaping company culture for an authentically great, positive employee experience.
Build a better culture through EX strategy.
Safety, meaning, and wellness — building a better employee experience
If you want to reach the golden 4:1 ratio of engaged to disengaged employees, that employee engagement begins with your employees’ personal experience. Building an engaged workforce is about more than happy employees — it’s about changing the workplace to usher in a profound sense of safety, meaning, and wellness.
While that takes time and dedication, business leaders can start by creating an employee experience strategy that considers Kahn’s three factors at every touchpoint of the employee journey.
Attract top talent by listening to their ideas
One of the most important aspects of the employee experience is the relationship between employees and their supervisors. Leadership can foster this relationship by respecting employee feedback, ideas, and suggestions from the very beginning. For employees to feel safe sharing their authentic perspectives at work, the process of building respect should start as early as the hiring process.
Improve employee retention with meaningful onboarding
A clear and compelling onboarding process that provides new hires with a sense of inclusion can significantly improve retention. Consider using mentors to continue integrating new employees over the long term. Employees who feel connected within the company become more productive as they find meaning and safety with their co-workers. True wellness, for both your employees and your company, begins with human connection in the onboarding process.
Spark collaboration and innovation with a culture of curiosity
There’s only one way to foster collaboration and curiosity and that’s making sure that people feel safe to express their ideas and questions. This requires a culture of curious listening in which no one immediately dismisses anyone else’s thoughts or suggestions. When employees feel valued for their ideas, business performance increases and engagement skyrockets.
Inspire employees with your mission and values
Even before the pandemic, employees were starting to focus more on workplace well-being and less on how much they were getting paid. Part of that well-being includes finding meaning in their work. In other words, performance management begins with employee experience management.
Instead of trying to incentivize employees with overtime pay or asking them to give up their weekends, the future of work is about recognizing just how much positive employee experience matters.
Raise productivity and reduce absenteeism with a supportive environment
Engagement surveys and other feedback initiatives can improve every step in the employee lifecycle by creating a supportive workspace over time. This requires more than just wellness and mental health programs — it takes a concerted effort to make sure employees feel safe in being their authentic selves.
According to Harvard Business Review, the value of belonging in the workplace is huge. About 40% of people say they feel isolated at work, leading ultimately to disengagement and loss of productivity. In the same study, employees who felt respected and comfortable showed a 75% reduction in absenteeism and were 18 times as likely to receive promotions than their isolated and uncomfortable co-workers. Productivity increases and absenteeism decreases when employees feel comfortable and recognized.
Learn the questions to ask in your next engagement survey
Improve customer satisfaction with employees who care
The equation is simple: a positive employee experience equals customer satisfaction. When your employees are happy and engaged, they care about the company, and that experience flows through to the customer. The numbers are clear: a 10% increase in customer engagement and an 18% increase in sales demonstrate that customer experience benefits when employees are engaged.
Impact your bottom line with a positive ROI on your employee experience
The fact that strong employee experience has been linked to positive ROI can go a long way toward helping HR leaders pitch the EX case to other stakeholders. For example, Forbes has reported that improving employee experience can increase retention and save companies the significant cost of replacing employees: up to 400% of an executive’s salary. When genuine care for your employees has a positive impact on your bottom line, everyone wins.
How Simpplr can help raise employee satisfaction
Give your company a competitive advantage in employee experience with Simplrr’s Live EX™️. Improve on employee experience surveys with in-the-moment feedback and built-in analytics. Celebrate new milestones with unprecedented agility and adaptability. Coordinate remote workers and in-person employees with precision-personalized communication strategies.
The first real-time employee experience management platform of its kind, Live EX™️ combines the best of employee communication software with new advancements in EX management for unparalleled results.