Employee Engagement Hits a 15-Year High — and It Still Ain’t Great

Examining the continually low scores for one of talent's top metrics.

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Jul 5, 2023

Global employee engagement has surged to its highest level in the past 15 years, since Gallup first began measuring it. It now stands at a towering 23%.

Just to be clear, Gallup didn’t use the term “towering.” I threw that in myself to make a point, which probably wasn’t necessary. But it’s hard not to be snarky when less than a quarter of the world’s employees are engaged by their work and it represents progress.

I’m still a little shook by the extent of disengagement, as outlined by Gallup in its recent State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report: an alarming 59% of the world’s employees are disengaged at their jobs and a further 18% are actively disengaged. Disengaged individuals simply “fill a seat” and “put in the minimum effort” required by their employers, Gallup reports, while the actively disengaged are “taking actions that directly harm (their) organization, undercutting its goals and opposing its leaders.”

Yikes! What would cause workers to sabotage their own employers? “At some point along the way, the trust between employee and employer was severely broken. Or the employee has been woefully mismatched to a role, causing constant crises,” the report states.

Gallup calls out managers as the chief cause for employees’ broken trust. They can create this rift in many different ways: disrespecting employees’ ideas and opinions, not communicating or offering guidance on a regular basis, failing to provide recognition or praise, failing to provide learning and growth opportunities, the list goes on. Once trust is broken, active disengagement follows.

What really grabbed my attention was Gallup’s other insight into the cause of active disengagement—that employees have been woefully mismatched to their roles. It’s a striking reminder that employee engagement begins with candidate engagement.

Troubleshooting the Recruiting Process

Granted, some of the workers who are mismatched to their roles (and actively disengaged as a result) are transferred or promoted into those roles. But many of them are hired into those roles and into companies that aren’t a fit for them from the start. This points to problems within a company’s recruiting process/candidate experience.

I understand that TA teams and hiring managers are under immense pressure to fill their job vacancies, a task that’s only grown more difficult over the past few years. The competition for talent is greater than ever, particularly as talent shortages expand despite layoffs and sector cooldowns.

However, hiring candidates who meet the basic requirements or who have essential skillsets is self-defeating if they don’t fit their employer’s culture or care about the company’s mission. Hiring such candidates will almost always lead to disengagement or outright turnover—often within the first year.

This is why the Screening and Interviewing stages of your recruiting process are so critical. They’re key touchpoints where your recruiters and hiring managers should learn in clear and definitive terms about a candidate’s fit—not just whether the individual is well suited to your job but also to your company, its mission, and its culture.

Research shows that a significant number of workers who quit their jobs during The Great Resignation did so because they felt at odds with these aspects of their employers. Many of these people told researchers they’d been disengaged from their jobs and their companies for years.

I think it’s worth taking another look at how well your TA team is communicating about your company’s mission and culture to candidates throughout the recruiting process and especially during the Screening and Interviewing stages. Your company’s values are another important thing they should be communicating. Company values were the most important content that North American job seekers looked for when researching jobs in 2022, according to Talent Board’s latest benchmark research.

We’re also still gathering data for the 2023 benchmark year and candidate resentment as we measure it (the % of candidates who say they have a poor recruiting experience and would never do anything with that employer again) is still hovering between 12%-14% in North America, which is always the highest in our research. EMEA comes in 2nd place currently at 12%. Latin America is lower at 10%, and APAC is at 8%.

All of this attentiveness to fit and a better candidate experience will lead to better quality of hire, which will lead to better employee engagement during that first crucial year of employment. (One side note: The U.S. and Canada saw no gains in engagement last year, Gallup found. South Asia is where much of the gain in global engagement took place. South Asia now leads the world in employee engagement at 33%.)

If we all take these candidate engagement/employee engagement connections seriously, maybe, just maybe, we can crack that 25% global engagement barrier sometime soon.

As always, be safe and well.

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