Amara Lang, Junior Account Manager

Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace report found that roughly 70 percent of Americans are disengaged from their jobs. Another 20 percent said traditional performance management techniques (annual reviews, for example) motivate them to work harder. Why is it so many Americans are finding it difficult to become engaged or motivated at work?

The answer is simple: Traditional work environments are stagnating. As Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin”—and so is the workplace.

Workplace environment is defined by many things including policies, benefits and perks, workspace design, location, time off, organizational culture, management and leadership styles. Each contributes to the overall happiness of a workplace, which is important since happy/engaged workers are more productive workers and more productive workers affect the bottom line.

According to Gallup, what employees value most in the workplace (or what most of them would leave for) is:

  • Work-life balance
  • Flextime (or nontraditional work hours) and/or remote work (at least part-time)
  • Paid vacation and leave, including not having to dip into time off for medical appointments
  • Autonomy
  • Meaningful work, including how their job contributes to the company and the future
  • Career development such as education, training and growth
  • Insurance (medical, dental, vision, disability, etc.)
  • Adequate pay
  • Job security
  • Employers that practice what they preach

Employees also value having an employee assistance program (EAP) as well as a wellness program. Gallup recommends keeping EAP and wellness initiatives in place, promoting them in a variety of different forms to sustain engagement.

Management and leadership matters, too. Today’s managers must serve as coaches and mentors. Both work-related matters and personal matters are encouraged for discussion. Moreover, managers and employees should touch base frequently (at least once per week) and in a variety of ways. The “annual/performance review” should rather be called a “progress review.” Progress reviews should be done at least twice per year and focus on what the employee did well, what they can improve upon, ways to meet their goals (both personal and team), and end on a positive note.

Today’s teams are also not as siloed from each other as perhaps they once were. In fact, many companies have implemented “matrixed teams” in which individuals from different areas of responsibility/departments work together to complete a task. Working with different teams also means working with several different managers. Accomplishing goals both within and throughout multiple groups allows for greater collaboration, inclusion and empowers team members to offer diverse insights.

Accountability is important to improving employee engagement for leaders, managers and employees alike. Leaders set the tone in a workplace and can demonstrate commitment to employee engagement and happiness. Managers should be held accountable for a team’s engagement level, as their responsibilities include motivating a team and its members. Employees also have a responsibility to take initiative for their attitudes, behaviors and engagement levels (after all, it takes two to tango).

The truth is that the American workplace is struggling and there is room for improvement. Hopefully this report summary and subsequent suggestions help guide your workplace to the next level of employee engagement! The times may be changing, but you can change along
with them.

Should you seek assistance determining engagement best practice for your organization, a management consultation with an FEI account manager can provide additional guidance. We also have a robust EAP that helps reduce workplace stress for covered employees; simply contact us to find out more.