Two years ago I stumbled upon a 2013 Gallup survey that argued 70% of the US workforce was “disengaged.” Beyond that stat, a big chunk the group was “actively disengaged” (think “Office Space”-style sabotage). Though I wasn’t shocked by these findings, I was very surprised at how bad it was.
It makes sense. It’s very hard to find people who genuinely like their jobs. Things may be somewhat better in the tech sector for several reasons.
Gallup’s 2014 survey data are slightly better than the 2013 results. In fact, Gallup says that the level of employee engagement is better now than at any time since 2000, when the pollster started conducting this survey. But they’re still not good.
It’s worth pointing out that this is no survey of 1,000 adults at a point in time. It’s based on a sample of more than 80,000 US adults from every state captured over the entire course of the year:
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted January to December 2014, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 80,837 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
The following are example questions used in the survey to determine levels of employee engagement:
As the chart above indicates, Gallup found in 2014 that 31.5% of US employees were “engaged,” while 68.5% were not. Gallup reports that “managers, executives and officers” had the highest levels of engagement in 2014 at 38.4%.
This is probably because these groups are better compensated than others and their compensation may be partly tied to individual and corporate performance. In addition, I would speculate, they’re more emotionally identified with their jobs and roles than lower-level employees.
In accordance with the cultural stereotype, “Millennials are the least engaged group, at 28.9%.” Gallup says that “Millennials are particularly less likely than other generations to say they ‘have the opportunity to do what they do best’ at work.”
According to Gallup and other sources the cost of unhappy employees is “between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity each year.” And turnover costs employers between 100% and 300% of the former employee’s base salary. By contrast, companies with engaged employees perform better across the board and generate more income.
These findings argue that the biggest problem in the American workplace and perhaps, by extension, the US economy is not efficiency or “productivity” in some conventional sense but employee dissatisfaction — as the root cause of other problems. Much of this stems from a long-standing disregard of employee well-being and satisfaction.