Lack of engagement in the workplace

Lack of engagement in the workplace

More than one half of US employees report they were not engaged in their work in 2015. This can mean one of two things: they wished they were working somewhere else while on the job; or they were actively looking for other work. Only 32% of Americans in 2015 said they were engaged in their jobs, which meant they were happy with their employment. These numbers expose some fundamental problems in the workforce but also reveal certain interesting generational differences. To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by the University of Southern California’s Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology program.

Lack of engagement in the workplace inforgraphic


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Financial Benefits of Employee Engagement

Statistics provide insight into the importance of being engaged at work. Where employees are happiest, productivity is 147% higher than in industries or companies where engagement is low. Happy employees are less likely to make mistakes on the job and they suffer fewer safety problems, both likely due to their ability to focus on work rather than thinking of other things to help them get through. They care more about their jobs as well which contributes to a higher level of concentration. Absenteeism and turnover are greatly reduced when employees are satisfied at work. There is 65% less turnover in low-turnover jobs and 25% less in jobs where turnover is higher.

Financial Costs of Employee Disengagement

The opposite is true for companies, which suffer from low levels of engagement among their workforce. Where staff are actively disengaged, companies lose between $450B and $550B each year. Much of the cost is due to staff turnover, absenteeism, and the re-hiring/training process. One might imagine dissatisfied employees phone in sick because they do not care about their jobs, but often they are suffering from job-related stress.

What Causes Employees to Dislike Their Jobs?

The second most common source of stress in the lives of Americans is their job and 60% of those who disengage at work say that stress is the cause. Stress can easily account for many lost days considering the impact this issue has on health. Of those surveyed, 53% were working overtime; 5% were feeling burned-out because they took work home with them; and 38% felt overwhelmed by the demands of their job.

Another problem was finding a reason to go to work apart from earning a paycheck. About half of those surveyed said they were unable to see a purpose in what they were doing, while only 3% of people who were happy in the workplace felt as though they were not contributing to society in their current line of work.

Who is Happiest?

The most engaged generation is in the 70+ age-bracket where only 34% of people are actively seeking new employment. Step back one generation to the Baby Boomers and they are almost as deeply focused on work: 33% are engaged versus 22% seeking new jobs. Many older Americans would say this proves what they believe to be a problem among young people; that they do not commit to anything and fail to stay in jobs, which do not serve their interests. Among Generation-X Americans, engagement is just 2% while almost 40% are looking for a different line of work. The least engaged are Millennials, the youngest group of employees, of which 42% are actively disengaged, but 29% are engaged with work compared with 2% among those classified as "Generation X." According to the figures above, however, this attitude does not reflect how easily accessible employees are outside of work, thanks to technology which connects them via internet during what should be family time.

Broken down according to industries, statistics from 2015 show levels of engagement in construction, office work, services, sales, manufacturing and production. These industries see only about 20% to 30% of employees actively engaged and happy in their work while the rest are either dreaming of or actually looking for another job.

Rules of Engagement

Americans cited stress but also lack of teamwork attributed to poor management as a cause of unhappiness and likely as a cause of stress too. Teamwork is a significant factor in establishing a happy, engaged staff; 69% people said this was a priority.

About three quarters of people, however, said they felt their employers should be setting goals and doing more to improve teamwork. One problem here, however, is that management is frequently responsible for the feeling that teamwork is not important to a company and that employee happiness does not matter. Managers and supervisors either focus on their team members' weaknesses or they ignore their staff entirely.

Where managers concentrated on finding and pointing out an employee's strengths, 61% of staff were satisfied with their jobs. Managers need to develop and engage team-building strategies and reduce staff turnover by setting goals, but 6% had not established a program by the time they were surveyed and 16% had initiated programs that were not doing any good. About 40% of interviewees described manager strategies as either fair or good, respectively. Increasing these figures could lead to considerable cost savings in the form of reduced turnover and significant improvements in efficiency.

A new trend in American workplaces, wherever possible, is for individuals to work from home. Employees in America are strongly in favor of flexible working schedules, which allow staff to take work home with them and even telecommute. Where flexibility is promoted, more than half the workforce is happy. Roughly one third of employees are unhappy where the job is considered inflexible even though the work could feasibly be taken home and telecommuting is a logical option to relieve workplace stress. This subject is so significant that statistics show it rates as the third most important factor contributing to engagement or disengagement at work.

Social Responsibility

Finally, half those surveyed wanted to be more involved in their employers' socially responsible initiatives; programs promoting fair and ethical trade and ecologically friendly behaviors, for example. More than 90% of employed Americans consider social responsibility to be a priority while 62% cited sustainability as an important consideration as well. Employers who pay attention to these priorities among their staff, adding them to employee retention goals, would be able to increase employees' sense of purpose and decrease dissatisfaction among staff.