Employee engagement has never been higher than 40%. No, that’s not a typo.
Statistically, there have never been more than 40% of employees actively engaged in their work in the history of tracking employee engagement. Since people spend one-third of their lives at their jobs, is that really enough?
The answer, of course, is no. That’s not enough.
Engagement is linked to productivity and morale. An engaged team is more willing to collaborate and share ideas. When a team is actively engaged and excited about their work, it profoundly impacts customers, employees and the business as a whole.
Organizations should not be happy with the fact that more than half of their employees aren’t engaged and excited about their work. Something needs to change.
Employee Engagement Trends
To understand employee engagement and improve it, it’s best to define the different types of engagement and examine historical trends. Engagement can be split into three separate categories: actively engaged, actively disengaged and not engaged.
These are important distinctions. “Actively engaged” employees are enthusiastic about their work. They are excited to come to work every day. On the other hand, employees who are “actively disengaged” are miserable at their jobs. They often spread negative energy and can be a primary source of toxicity within a team.
The final group is for employees who are simply “not engaged.” They are detached from their work. They put in the time, they do their jobs, but they are commonly seeking other employment. In comparison, they lack the passion or energy that is found in actively engaged employees. This is the group that employers may be able to reach with the right tools.
A Brief History of Employee Engagement
In 2000, employee engagement hovered at 26%. In 2001, it increased to 30%, then dropped down to 28% in 2002. This trend continued for the next decade, hovering between 26% and 30% without much variation.
Something similar happened with disengagement. In 2000, disengagement was at 18%, 16% in 2001, and 17% in 2003. It never ventured too far from the 16 – 18% mark until 2015, when both numbers started to change in a surprising way.
In 2015, there was a sudden uptick in engagement, hitting 32% for the first time in history. Active disengagement also dropped to 17%. Fast forward to 2020, and those numbers that remained relatively consistent from 2000 – 2016 have vastly improved.
In 2020, engagement climbed to 37% in March, 38% in April and May, and hit the historic high of 40% in June and July. Active disengagement dropped to 13% and stayed there for most of the year. That’s an unprecedented level of engagement. Of course, it’s still less than half of employees, but it’s a definite improvement.
Now, the natural assumption is that employee engagement and employee well-being are intrinsically linked. If engagement is high, then employee well-being should also be on the rise. If this was anywhere between 2000 and 2019, that might be an accurate assessment.
However, in 2020 it all changed.
The Engagement and Well-Being Paradox: Why Wellness Is Key
The “Engagement and Well-Being Paradox” is a phenomenon that occurred during 2020 and continues to this day. It has perplexed leaders in the industry and changed how employers are approaching employee engagement.
Engagement was on the rise, but employee well-being saw a significant drop. Throughout 2020, employees reported record levels of worry, burnout and stress. On top of that, mental health issues were steadily increasing. Pushed into isolation and coping with a tenuous political and economic state, it’s understandable that people weren’t feeling particularly well.
So, why are employees stressed and unwell but more engaged than ever? Because there is no intrinsic link between engagement and wellness.
Engagement does not equal health. People were engaged with their jobs because they enjoyed their work, appreciated the transition to remote working environments, or just needed the distraction. But that’s about to change.
As the pandemic comes to a close and employees begin entering physical locations again, companies are reporting unprecedented levels of burnout. Dedicated employees have spent over a year working tirelessly to keep businesses alive during one of the most trying economic crises anyone has ever faced, and they are reeling from it.
40% is already not enough engagement. Those figures should be much higher. But employees are overworked, stressed and exhausted, and if businesses allow that to continue, those numbers will plummet.
To combat burnout and an ever-present fear of an uncertain world, companies must focus on improving the lives of their employees. To create a happy and engaged team, they must focus on cultivating and promoting employee well-being.
How To Encourage Teams
Organizations should value and care for their people. Without them, they might not have survived the last year. On top of that, employees who dedicate their lives to jobs deserve to know that their investment isn’t taken for granted.
Here are a few effective ways to improve employee engagement and well-being simultaneously.
Take an Engagement Survey
An anonymous engagement survey allows team members to be honest about the issues they face at their jobs. It enables them to communicate openly without fear of punishment. This can be an invaluable tool for supervisors and executives because it gives them the ability to address the specific issues that threaten their organization and their employees’ engagement and well-being.
Encourage Creativity and Innovation
Employees crave the opportunity to be creative with their work. Being creative can make employees excited about their jobs. Plus, creativity paves the way to innovation and fresh ideas, which are vital to a successful and thriving business.
Recognize Achievements and Milestones
Employee recognition and appreciation are essential to improving engagement and employee well-being. Team members want to know that the work they’re doing isn’t going unnoticed. Whether they’ve hit a sales goal or they’re celebrating a work anniversary, companies should take the opportunity to recognize and reward their employees any chance they can get.
Create a Fun Environment
Organizations should orchestrate friendly competitions and throw parties to celebrate milestones. They should plan and organize company outings and holiday get-togethers. Events like these enable employees to engage with one another, socialize, celebrate and have fun, all of which can have a positive impact on their engagement and well-being.
Customized Lifestyle Benefits
Benefits programs have changed. It’s no longer enough to just offer healthcare and 401K packages to employees. In fact, those benefits are now expected. They’re often a prerequisite for someone to even consider applying for a job. The modern employee prefers benefits that cater to their life and improves their physical, emotional, mental and financial well-being.
Companies can take that a step further and by using a custom benefits platform like Fringe, which enables employees to choose from over a hundred different lifestyle benefit options. The Fringe platform takes customization and personalization to a whole new level and helps to ensure employees feel valued and engaged.