A Gallup Study Shows US Employee Engagement Rates Declined In 2021

Declining employee engagement

A Gallup Study Shows US Employee Engagement Rates Declined In 2021

Employee engagement is the key to the success of any workplace wellness program or to running any business. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the dynamics of employee engagement and overall workplace wellness.

A recent Gallup study showed that the percentage of engaged workers dropped in 2021 for the first time in a decade.

Here is a quick brief of the Gallup employee engagement study outcomes.

Gallup Workplace Engagement Study

Gallup asked random working groups about the specific workplace elements that impact productivity, retention, and overall wellbeing. These elements included opportunities for occupational development, inclusion at the workplace, and clarity on roles and expectations.

A random selection of 57,022 full and part-time workers was enquired about the various workplace and engagement elements. Despite being an unprecedented year of highs and lows, 2020 recorded 36% of engaged and 14% of disengaged employees. On the other hand, in 2021, only 34% were engaged and 16% were disengaged.

The first half of 2021 recorded workplace engagement rates of 36%, almost similar to the compounded 2020 outcomes. However, the rates dropped in the second half of 2021 with an annual workplace engagement rate of 34%.

Though the drop affected businesses, it was expected given the challenges faced by employees and employers. Be it the employee turnover rates, vaccine mandate regulations, or meeting employee health and wellbeing needs, workplace policies had to be amended with time, leaving little scope to amp up employee engagement.

Lost Basics and Its Insights

Among all the engagement elements studied by Gallup, clarity of expectations at the workplace saw a significant plunge. Furthermore, having access to the right equipment, materials, or communication channels, and the opportunity for the employees to do what they are best at also declined, reducing employee engagement rates.

Managers were Less Engaged

The mental, physical, and economic challenges driven by the pandemic have particularly affected managers and healthcare workers, causing burnout. With a seven-point decline, the manager engagement rates dropped steeply in 2021 as they felt the lack of support, clarity, encouragement, and development at the workplace.

Higher Turnover Rates

While many lost their jobs during the pandemic, a few fortunate ones who had their jobs were not really happy with the uncertainties and stress, which led to high turnover rates. According to Gallup, employees who were suffering from burnout, mental health issues, and other struggles during March 2021 were twice as likely to change their jobs, compared to the ones who were thriving.

How Can Employers Help?

The pandemic made it evident that the basic elements of workplace engagement are vulnerable. Fundamental factors like having access to the right workplace materials and the opportunity to grow professionally declined in 2021, thus reducing resiliency.

Employers must focus on the essential employee engagement elements that are known to impact workplace productivity and culture. Be it employee wellness programs or the overall workplace culture, everything has to be aligned with the latest corporate wellness trends.

In 2020, almost half of the employees felt they were well foresighted about how and what to do at their jobs. However, the number dropped by 7% in 2021.

Managers and other senior executives have constantly adjusted the workplace policies and employee needs to reestablish clarity at the workplace and leverage the strengths of all the workers.

Gallup reported that managers were responsible for making their leadership decisions, and more importantly, they had to motivate their team to do their jobs well. However, the manager’s role has been getting complicated with the ‘Great Resignation’ rates, vaccine mandates, and changing employee mental health, impacting their work productivity.

In early 2020, almost 49% of employees agreed their managers kept them in the loop regarding the workplace updates, whereas the numbers dropped to 36% in 2021. So, communication is crucial to ensure clarity and engagement. Managers must have clear organizational priorities and must be well-communicated across the workforce. Confused or distorted communication will only stress out employees and employers, causing burnout and disengagement.

Despite the uncertainties and disruptions caused by the pandemic, employee engagement in the US continued to improve in 2020, creating new patterns of record highs.  However, the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees dropped from 2.6: 1 in 2020 to 2.1: 1 in 2021.

Disengaged employees usually do not have their workplace needs met, and so, they are not as involved as the engaged workforce. Similarly, engaged employees are more loyal towards their workplace, are enthusiastic about their work, and are actively involved in workplace activities.

Workplace culture can play a huge role in influencing overall employee engagement, productivity, and wellbeing. By upskilling employees with coaching based on their strengths and capitalizing on it, managers can make their jobs easier for themselves and the workforce.