Shocking News: Employee Engagement is Terrible

Employee engagement has hit an 11-year low after another 3% dip in Q1 2024. It’s a downward trend that should sound the alarm—this is a growing issue that companies can no longer afford to ignore. 

Employee engagement goes beyond just showing up for work and completing daily tasks. When engagement levels drop, the repercussions are far-reaching. 

Meaning, this continuous downward trend isn’t something companies can overlook. 

If companies don’t start taking proactive measures, this decline is likely to continue. And the results could be disastrous. 

Laying Blame

When it comes to decreased engagement and overall employee performance, companies and leadership are often quick to point fingers. And, remote work tends to be the biggest target. 

Nike CEO John Danahoe most notably blamed remote work for the lack of innovation in recent years. 

But, this is not a remote work problem; it’s a culture problem. 

While it may seem easier to lay blame, the employees or workplace trends like remote and hybrid work environments are rarely the root cause. The real culprits? Leadership and organizational culture.

Addressing these deep-seated issues requires more than superficial changes. It demands a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes employee well-being, fosters a positive and inclusive workplace culture, and provides opportunities for meaningful contributions and career development. 

You can’t just slap a Band-Aid on the issue and call it a day. You need to implement a culture shift.

In fact, top performing organizations (who have 7x the national engagement average) have all made culture changes to increase engagement. 

Where Companies Go Wrong with Employee Engagement?

Those top performing companies are ahead of the game, because they understand that fostering a supportive and dynamic workplace environment is crucial to maintaining high levels of engagement and performance. 

By shifting focus from placing blame to actively improving workplace culture, businesses can reverse the downward trend in employee engagement and build a more committed and innovative workforce.

Most companies get it wrong. They treat it as a one-time initiative rather than an ongoing commitment, rolling out short-term programs or relying on superficial perks. 

I’ll let you in on a secret: plying employees with free snacks or casual Fridays isn’t going to boost engagement. It’s a Band-Aid over a bullet hole. 

Here are the biggest mistakes companies make that contribute to declining employee engagement:

They’re not being transparent. 

Companies often fail to create an open and honest dialogue with their employees. This lack of transparency breeds mistrust and uncertainty, which can significantly lower engagement levels.

Transparency in business means that leadership is open, honest, and straightforward about the what, why, and how.  It can help drive performance, accountability, and engagement. It even increases employee retention

They’re ignoring employee’s wants and needs.

Times are changing. Unfortunately, this has led to generational gaps in expectations, with each generation bringing its own unique set of desires and values to the workplace. Nobody wants to rock the boat. Companies often try to stick to the status quo and keep going the way they always have, but this is a mistake. 

By failing to address the evolving expectations of their workforce, companies risk alienating valuable talent and stagnating in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Pattie Grimm, owner of Advantage Consulting and Training, says “ Leaders need to face the fact that employees want and demand a different kind of work environment.” And, she’s right. 

Leaders need to acknowledge that employees today, especially from Gen Z and Gen Alpha, are after more than just a paycheck and a cookie cutter cubicle. They want a work environment that makes them feel like they are part of something bigger than their daily tasks. 

Failure to address these diverse needs will mean lower employee engagement and higher turnover. 

They’re creating a toxic or stressful workplace.

A positive workplace culture is the foundation for employee engagement. Companies that foster an environment of positivity, trust, and support not only cultivate higher levels of engagement but also empower their employees to thrive. 

This starts at the top. Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the culture of an organization. They need to lead by example and set expectations. 

It goes beyond simply defining company values. To cultivate a positive workplace culture, leaders must be proactive in addressing negative behaviors and fostering an environment of trust and support.

They have to work to cut out the negativity, stop the micromanagement, and start treating mistakes like a learning opportunity. They need to allow employees to bond with each other and the brand, promoting loyalty and performance. 

I think Liz Gulliver, co-founder of Kinuk, said it best: “It’s simple: a bonded workforce is a happy workforce, and a happy workforce is a productive workforce.”

They’re underutilizing diverse viewpoints. 

Companies often overlook the value of diverse perspectives and unique viewpoints. You have employees from different generations, different cultural backgrounds, and different professional backgrounds across multiple teams. Don’t ignore that; use it. 

Failure to embrace the uniqueness of your staff not only limits the organization’s ability to innovate but also stifles inclusivity, leading to a less engaged and dynamic workforce. 

By encouraging collaboration and fostering an environment where all voices are heard and valued, companies can unlock new ideas, approaches, and solutions that drive growth and success—while boosting morale, engagement, productivity, and overall employee satisfaction. 

They’re not recognizing talent and celebrating wins big and small.

When companies fail to acknowledge the contributions of their employees, they miss out on a valuable opportunity to cultivate a motivated and loyal workforce. You want more employee engagement?

Then, engage more with your employees. 

You need to recognize the talent you already have. Acknowledge their contributions, reward their achievements, and celebrate wins, no matter how small. Show them that they are seen, heard, and valued. 

By showing appreciation for the efforts and achievements of team members, organizations can foster a positive and supportive work environment where employees feel valued and empowered to excel.

They’re not implementing effective change management. 

You’ve implemented changes to boost engagement. Great! But, you can’t stop there. Implementing the change is just the first step. 

Ignoring feedback and failing to measure the effectiveness of new initiatives can leave you in an even worse place than when you started. Employee concerns and feedback must be taken seriously to avoid a disconnect that could eventually result in widespread disengagement.

Continuing to refine and evolve these initiatives is essential for long-term success. Don’t just set it and forget it; otherwise, your engagement efforts might end up like a neglected plant—you’ll only notice they need attention when they start wilting! 

Why Employee Engagement is Important

Happy employees, happy leadership. That is an oversimplified statement, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Engaged employees tend to have better mental health. And, happy employees are more productive. 

But employee engagement is about so much more than just keeping employees engaged and productive. 

There are many performance outcomes that are linked to engagement beyond productivity like:

  • Employee retention. Engaged workforces are more loyal. You’ll see decreased turnover and improved talent acquisition. 
  • Safety incidents. Engaged employees are more focused on their work and more likely to adhere to safety protocols. 
  • Quality of work. Employees who are loyal to their company and engaged in their work will put more effort into the results. 

Increase Employee Engagement with a Culture Shift

If you’re looking for somewhere to lay blame, look at leadership. If the workplace culture doesn’t match the company initiatives, then employees won’t deliver the desired results. 

Workplaces that lack open communication and positivity are bound to see a dip in engagement. This domino effect doesn’t just impact performance—it can ultimately take a toll on your bottom line.

If engagement is on the decline, it’s a clear sign that a culture shift is necessary. This requires more than just superficial fixes; it demands a fundamental transformation in how the organization operates and interacts with its workforce.

But remember that the outcome is more than worth the effort.