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Employee Engagement Talent Management

Employee engagement is at an all-time high. So is the cost of quiet quitting.

By HRSG Team on July, 13 2023

Article table of contents (jump to section):

  1. What is employee engagement, anyway?
  2. The high cost of low employee engagement
  3. How to boost employee engagement

The latest Gallup data on the state of the global workplace has surprising things to say about employee engagement, and it's a message every HR professional needs to hear right now.

First, the good news. After a slight dip in 2020, engagement levels have soared to their highest levels since Gallup began taking measurements in 2009. Now, the bad news: a vast proportion of the workforce is still disengaged—77%, to be exact. Of those, 18% are not just quiet quitting, they are "loud quitting," which means they are actively disengaged and behaving in ways that directly harm the organization.

In this blog post, we'll examine this confusing phenomenon and provide some tips for re-engaging and reconnecting with your workforce.


What is employee engagement, anyway?

Before we dive into the data, let's define the terms.

Employee engagement is generally defined as the level of commitment, passion, and emotional investment that employees have towards their work and their organization. It refers to the extent to which employees are motivated, involved, and dedicated to their jobs, and the degree to which they feel connected to their organization's goals and values.

While there is no universally agreed-upon definition, employee engagement typically includes the following elements.

Commitment. Engaged employees have an emotional attachment to their work and their organization, which often manifests in a sense of enthusiasm, pride, and dedication in their job roles.

Motivation. Engaged employees are motivated and willing to go beyond their basic job requirements. They exhibit a willingness to contribute their discretionary effort to achieve organizational goals.

Connection. Engaged employees feel connected to and align themselves with the goals, mission, and values of the organization. They see their work as meaningful and recognize the impact of their contributions.

Satisfaction. Engaged employees tend to experience a high level of job satisfaction, finding fulfillment and enjoyment in their work. They are more likely to derive a sense of accomplishment and derive personal growth from their roles.

Development. Engaged employees are often motivated to enhance their skills and knowledge, seeking ongoing opportunities for growth and development within their organization.


The high cost of low employee engagement

According to the latest Gallup report on the State of the Global Workplace, low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion. That's an amount equivalent to 9% of global GDP.

Why is disengagement in the workplace so costly? Because it undermines the organization in myriad ways. Here are a few examples.

Decreased productivity. Disengaged employees often lack motivation and commitment, leading to decreased productivity levels. They may perform tasks with minimal effort, take longer to complete assignments, or produce work of lower quality. This can result in missed deadlines, reduced efficiency, and overall lower output.

Higher turnover. Disengaged employees are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. They may feel unfulfilled, undervalued, or disconnected from the organization, leading to higher turnover rates. This can result in increased recruitment and training costs, loss of institutional knowledge, and disruptions in team dynamics.

Poor customer service. Disengaged employees are less likely to provide exceptional customer service. They may exhibit reduced enthusiasm, lack of responsiveness, or lack of empathy towards customers. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, the organization's reputation and revenue.

Lack of innovation and creativity. Disengaged employees are less likely to contribute innovative ideas or solutions. They may become complacent and resistant to change, inhibiting the organization's ability to adapt and innovate. This can hinder competitiveness and limit growth opportunities.

Negative workplace culture. Disengaged employees can spread negativity and dissatisfaction among their peers. Their lack of motivation and commitment can affect team morale and overall workplace culture. This negative atmosphere can lead to increased conflicts, decreased collaboration, and a decline in employee well-being.

Higher absenteeism and presenteeism. Disengaged employees may have higher rates of absenteeism or engage in presenteeism, where they physically show up for work but are mentally disengaged. This can result in increased employee sick days, decreased team productivity, and a negative impact on overall team dynamics.

Missed opportunities for improvement. Disengaged employees are less likely to provide valuable feedback or suggest improvements. Their lack of involvement and apathy can lead to missed opportunities to identify and address organizational challenges or make necessary changes for growth and success.


How to boost employee engagement

While 77% of employees are disengaged, the vast majority (59%) are quiet quitters, which means that while they may be putting in the minimum effort, they are much more likely than "loud quitters" to transition from disengaged to engaged if the organization makes positive changes in their workplace. This represents a tremendous opportunity for organizations to improve efficiency, productivity, profitability, and culture.

Companies can reconnect with employees and deepen employee engagement in a number of ways. Here are a few to consider.

Create clear expectations. When employees understand what is expected of them and are evaluated fairly, transparently, and consistently, they are more likely to feel engaged on the job. Developing detailed, competency-based job descriptions can be a helpful first step in this process.

Establish a positive work culture. Cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment that values employee contributions, fosters open communication, and promotes respect and collaboration among team members. Encourage a culture of recognition, appreciation, and celebration of achievements.

Support employee growth. Offer employees opportunities for learning, skill development, and career advancement. Support their professional growth through competency-based development, mentorship initiatives, job rotations, and coaching.

Open communication channels. Keep employees informed about company news, updates, and changes, and regularly seek and act on feedback from employees through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one conversations.

Foster strong leadership. Develop and train leaders who can effectively inspire, motivate, and empower employees. Encourage leaders to lead by example, communicate openly, and provide regular feedback and coaching.