U.S. employee engagement has dropped for the first time in a decade. A Gallup survey found that the greatest declines were in clarity of expectations, having the right materials and equipment, and the opportunity for workers to do what they do best.
The Steepest Decline in Engagement
Managers, along with healthcare workers, had the steepest decline in engagement and the greatest increase in burnout.
This is understandable. Managers have had to handle concerns about employees’ mental and physical health, compliance with vaccine mandates, ongoing changes to where their employees work and increased quit rates. Unclear and confusing messages from top management regarding organizational priorities have added more stress. This has further complicated managers’ ability to implement leadership decisions and motivate their teams to get work done.
Lack of Clear Expectations
Key reasons given for managers’ reduced engagement was the feeling that they didn’t have clear expectations or someone who encouraged their development. If the managers are burned out and disengaged, it’s almost impossible for them to engage their employees.
There is a clear correlation between engagement and retention. Gallup found that employees and managers who were struggling or suffering in March of 2021 were almost twice as likely as those who were thriving to change jobs later in the year.
Managers Should Not Need to Struggle
So, what does this mean for your organization? The constant pandemic disruptions and uncertainties have created a need for managers to develop new management skills as well as personal coping methods. Some managers are struggling, while some are more resilient than others. However, all of your managers need support and encouragement.
The decline in employee and manager engagement was not universal. The organizations that had greater engagement accomplished this because of senior management involvement, clear communication, upskilling managers, and accountability.
Senior Management Responsibility
Senior management needs to accept responsibility for communicating clearly and often about organizational policies and directions, which may continually shift depending upon the circumstances. This way, their managers will have clarity about their priorities and can pass that information down to their teams in a timely fashion.
Attention to engagement needs to be accompanied by attention to the five elements of wellbeing (career, social, financial, physical, and community) in order to reduce the odds of burnout, stress, worry, anxiety, and depression.
Make sure your managers have the coaching support to build necessary management skills and the encouragement to seek assistance if their wellbeing is compromised. You don’t want to lose your managers to burnout.
Deborah Laurel, Director, The Peer Learning Institute