Grab your coffee, Gallup is serving business leaders a wake-up call.
Employee recognition needs to be a top priority, according to Gallup’s massive State of the American Workplace.
Experts at Gallup are calling the report a “call to action” for companies, starting with a complete overhaul of employee recognition and engagement strategy.
The old ways of managing employees just aren’t working, and change isn’t optional.
Released last week, the 214-page report is Gallup’s first comprehensive survey of the U.S. workplace in four years. Gallup bases its research on data collected from more than 195,600 U.S. employees, 31 million respondents through Gallup’s Q12 Client Database, and insights from Fortune 1000 companies.
It’s a lot of data to unpack — but it’s incredibly useful. The report gives HR leaders and managers an in-depth look at how they’re doing across the board. It’s not a rosy picture.
If you’ve been following Gallup’s excellent month-to-month workplace research, some of the report’s data won’t be surprising. Engagement numbers are still dismally low — only 33 percent of American workers are engaged at their jobs, and productivity continues to decline. More than half are looking for work elsewhere.
But the report also provides new data and insights into why employees aren’t more engaged or productive. Again and again, the data points to a need for more engaged leadership and much better employee recognition.
The once-a-year model of employee recognition just doesn’t cut it anymore.
What Do Work-from-Home Trends Tell Us About Employee Recognition?
The popularity of working remotely is having a big impact on engagement. Back in 2012, when Gallup was doing research for its last State of the American Workplace report, working outside the office didn’t appear to have much bearing on employee satisfaction.
Back then, “Gallup found that the ‘optimal engagement boost’ happened for those who worked remotely less than 20 percent of time,” according to The Washington Post.
Now the Gallup data shows that working remotely 60 to 80 percent of the time produces the most engaged employees. That’s more than triple what Gallup found four years ago!
As the Post’s Jena McGregor points out, the engagement potential in these figures isn’t surprising: “People feel most plugged in to their jobs when they have some balance — a little bit of face time and camaraderie at work, and plenty of time to hunker down and get work done from home while avoiding the headaches of going in to the office.”
But why the dramatic shift in four years?
Wider acceptance of working remotely along with improvements in technology “may play some role,” McGregor writes, but the primary explanation comes down to thoughtful, ongoing employee recognition.
Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management at Gallup, attributes the trend to companies that are “doing more to help remote workers get it right.” Better manager training, clearer job descriptions and easier collaboration systems are helping remote workers feel, well, more at home.
There’s also a psychological element. One of the best predictors of employee engagement is how long and how often employees are able to “get in the zone.” As Harter explains, “when you work remotely, you certainly have more of a chance to get absorbed in your work.”
What about the rest of us? Not everyone has the luxury of working remotely. The biggest industries — such as healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and hospitality — still depend on workers who show up and work full-time on-site.
The general lesson here is that management needs to be better about listening to, communicating to and recognizing employees, no matter where they’re located.
The Fundamental Role of Employee Recognition
“The very practice of management no longer works. The old ways — annual reviews, forced rankings, outdated competencies — no longer achieve the intended results,” according to Gallup.
“The business world is failing its increasingly diverse workforce in an era when people want different things out of going to work,” Tampa Bay Times business columnist Robert Trigaux concludes in his analysis of the report.
Often, the missing key to engagement are employees who don’t understand or feel connected to the company’s mission. Fixing that comes down to better communication — clearer goals and more frequent, more meaningful recognition.
“The modern workforce wants a job that feels meaningful,” according to the Gallup report. “They need to be able to see clearly how their role contributes to the success of their team and organization.”
Managers can start making changes today, without waiting for institutional change.
Ed O’Boyle, a workplace expert at Gallup, talks about the five conversations managers can initiate with employees to “learn more from your team and drive greater business impact.”
Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace is a wake-up call. It also provides the blueprint for exciting innovation, growth and a new kind of employee recognition. If the workforce of today “defies convention,” as Gallup concludes, the HR response must also defy convention.
Download Your FREE Employee Recognition Calendar
“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day — or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru, coach and author
Download the gThankYou Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar for resources and advice to help your organization thrive this year. Our calendar guide gives you the tools and inspiration to build a culture of appreciation every day of the year. Download yours today, absolutely free!
Here’s to a happier workplace!
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