Engagement Matters to Employees. Shouldn’t it Matter to You?

Gallup says that less than a third of US employees are engaged at work, which is actually an improvement over last year. Over half of employees are “not engaged” and 16% are “actively disengaged”. Those are not encouraging numbers.

Looking at the newest and fastest growing segment of the workforce, Millennials, Gallup finds that only 25% are engaged, 55% are not engaged and 16% are actively disengaged (totaling 71% or almost three-fourths) – so slightly worse than employees overall. In fact, Millennials are the least engaged segment of the workforce.

One of the main differences between these new workers and older ones is that they tend to change jobs more often. The same Gallup study says that 60% of working Millennials are currently “open” to a new job opportunity. This is partly because they’ve been with the company less time, so have less invested. They are also younger and less likely to have responsibilities that might keep them working for an organization.

But it’s also a cultural thing – Millennials have been raised to focus on themselves as individuals and always follow their dreams, so why should they stick around somewhere they don’t feel engaged? On the other hand, Millennials who are engaged say that they are 64% less likely to switch jobs, even if the job market improves in the next 12 months.

Employee retention is important. It costs around 150% of an employee’s salary to replace her. Even those that stick around can affect the bottom line – a Harvard paper shows that workers in the top 1% of productivity add around $5000 profit a year to an organization, while toxic workers cost $12,000 a year each. And bad apples spread their dissatisfaction to others, lowering engagement and satisfaction wherever they go.

There are dozens of studies and articles out there that show that engaged employees are:

  • more productive
  • work longer hours
  • increase profitability
  • are more committed to their company
  • stay at a job longer
  • are more innovative
  • are more collaborative
  • help foster a sense of harmony and community

Yet many American companies have continued to ignore this. The Willis Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study finds that 60% of employees in all business sectors lack the elements needed to engage them. And the employees themselves are aware of this – a Psychometrics Engagement Study says 82% of employees say it’s “very important” that their organization address the issue of engagement, and 69% say engagement is a “problem” where they work. Throwing money at employees doesn’t really do the trick – a mere 12% of workers leave their current jobs for higher pay.

So, what makes an employee engaged or disengaged, and what can organizations do about it? Employees clearly can’t do it themselves – they need management to take proactive steps. One thing that motivates engaged workers is performance recognition. 69% of disengaged workers do not feel appreciated by management, according to data from the National Business Research Institute. 49% of employees said they’d immediately leave their current job for a company that clearly recognized employee efforts and contributions.

Clearly recognition is important to people. So is belief in senior management, and the idea that what they do has a positive impact on their community, according to research from Dale Carnegie. Yet what manager has time to go around and personally inform people of the overall mission of the company, and evaluate and praise each worker individually?

Fortunately, there’s a technological tool that can help immensely – digital signage. Messages on digital signs can reach everyone wherever they are, and each message can be repeated in a rotating playlist for continued exposure. Real-time data can show people how they’re progressing toward goals and change behavior. Integrated data feeds can streamline processes and give people more free time. Gamified solutions get people actively involved without their even knowing it – they just think they’re having fun.

For specific ideas on how digital signage can help with engagement in your organization, with measurable results you can see this quarter, check out our white paper.