Employee Engagement 2015: Not Much Has Changed

by Holly G Green

Do you have an engaged, committed workforce?  How do you know?

Here’s one way to find out. Each year, Gallup surveys a broad base of employees on this issue. They identified 12 key indicators that translate to high levels of employee engagement:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition and praise for good work.
  • My supervisor seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • Someone at work has talked to me about my progress in the last six months.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • This last year I have had opportunities to learn and grow.
  • I have a friend at work.

To determine whether you have an engaged workforce, use this list as the basis for an employee survey and see how many positive responses you get. Just don’t be surprised if the surveys mostly come back negative.

According to Gallup, less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. That’s up nearly two percentage points from 2013, and represents the highest percentage since 2000. However, 51% of employees were not engaged, and 17.5% were “actively disengaged.” Which means less than one out of every three employees felt “enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace” (Gallup’s definition).

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Interestingly (but not surprising), Millennials – those born between 1981 and 2000 – were identified as the least engaged generation of workers, with only 28.9% reporting a strong sense of engagement. According to Gallup, these workers are less likely to feel they have the opportunity to use their talents and strengths at their jobs, which is a strong driver of disengagement.

Currently, Millennials (also known as Generation Y) make up slightly more than 10% of the U.S. workforce. But over the next five to 10 years, their numbers will increase dramatically. And as they mature, the first wave of Millennials will assume positions of increasing responsibility and importance. To help develop a stronger sense of engagement among Millennial workers, I recommend the following:

Understand what motivates them. Millennials are self-confident, achievement oriented, and have a respect for diversity of all sorts. Experts at believing they can multi-task, they tend to be street smart, adaptive to change, and comfortable with new technology. In the workplace, they seek independence and autonomy, challenge and variety, continual development of skills, a fun and communal workplace, and a healthy work-life balance.

Speak their language. In other words, communicate in ways they are mostly likely to hear and understand. Use email and text as well as other social media platforms as primary communication tools. Use humor when appropriate. Encourage Millennials to break the rules (within clearly defined parameters) to explore new paths or options. Above all, don’t talk down to Millennials, especially when providing corrective feedback.

Provide plenty of feedback. Born and raised in a world of social networking, feedback is a way of life for Millennials. Moreover, they expect to give it as well as receive it. Provide daily acknowledgement of their contributions, or redirect them immediately if they need to do something different. Don’t withhold any feedback until your next scheduled meeting. Millennials are not necessarily skilled at giving effective feedback, so you will likely have to coach them to do it well in a workplace setting.

In some respects, Millennials are no different from any other generation. All employees want:

  • To have respect and trust for and from their supervisors and managers
  • To feel part of a community – inside and outside of the workplace
  • To understand what is expected of them
  • To be heard and understood
  • To be accepted for their unique value
  • To be acknowledged for their contributions

Also, keep in mind that in order to become fully engaged, employees of all generations need to feel inspired by what they do at work. They want to know that the effort they put in each and every day somehow makes a difference in the world. That starts with having a clear and compelling vision of winning. When people know and believe in where the organization is going, they’re much more likely to fully engage with their work and put in the effort required to win.

Call to action: Choose one technique for getting Millennials more engaged. Practice it every day for the next 30 days.

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Holly G GreenHolly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (www.TheHumanFactor.biz) and is a highly sought after and acclaimed speaker, business consultant, and author. Her unique approach to creating strategic agility, helping others go slow to go fast, will change your thinking. Follow Holly @HollyGGreen

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