Employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. That's equal to 11% of global GDP.
In 2021, 21% of the world's employees were engaged at work. Although this is an increase of one percentage point from 2020, we have still not returned to our peak of 22% recorded in 2019.
Clearly, the pandemic has taken a toll on the world's workers. Employee engagement had been rising for the past decade, but the pandemic has stalled that steadily increasing trend. Leaders are now responsible for creating new work environments that are more resilient and adaptable to global shocks. The future trajectory of employee engagement will be one measure of their success.
The term "employee engagement" describes a psychological commitment to one's work, team and organization. It's a mental state that fluctuates all the time, influenced by workplace relationships and events. Engaged employees are mentally in the zone, ready for action.
Engaged employees are the engine that moves your organization forward on every level:
Engaged employees sound like great people. Who wouldn't want more of them? But here's the catch: Engagement is not a characteristic of employees, but rather an experience created by organizations, managers and team members.
Engagement is not the default position. Every organization engages some employees, but most organizations fail to engage the majority of them. It's the exception, not the rule.
Engagement cannot be created through financial incentives. Employee pay is the "easy button" for attracting, retaining and motivating employees. But it doesn't create psychological ownership for one's work. Moreover, competitors can raise their wages at any time and steal those employees away.
Engagement is not a characteristic of employees, but rather an experience created by organizations, managers and team members.
Creating a culture of engagement is not easy. Building a highly engaged organization takes intention, investment and effort over several years. But the results are worth it. Gallup's most recent employee engagement meta-analysis of 112,312 business units found that teams scoring in the top quartile on employee engagement saw the following benefits compared with bottom-quartile teams:
Engaged cultures are valuable and difficult to copy — the very definition of a competitive advantage. Organizations that make engagement the controlling factor in day-to-day operations stand out from their competitors. They are also more resilient to shocks: A Gallup study of organizations during the Great Recession found that engaged business units or teams outperform their peers even better during hard economic times.
Global engagement numbers show that while many employers are doing employee engagement surveys, few have really tapped into the power of engagement as a strategic asset. It's worth far more than most organizations realize.
Ryan Pendell is a Workplace Science Writer at Gallup.
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