COVID-19 has forced our companies to adapt to changing work environments and try to continue to boost employee engagement while working remote. 

In early May, Gallup reported that employee engagement in the U.S. had accelerated to a new high. Only one month later, Gallup tracking has found the most significant drop recorded since the start of tracking in 2000. 

While this trend can be discouraging for managers, it’s important to analyze why this is happening and what we can do to fix it. 

Gallup Employee Engagement Data

Gallup defines “engaged” workers as those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. Even after being forced to move to online and remote workspaces, tracking from May found that the percentage of “engaged” workers in the U.S. had reached 38%, an all-time high since tracking of the metric began in 2000. 

When analyzed again with data from mid-June, the trend had decreased to only 31% of employees being “engaged.”

Gallup Engagement Data

While the percentage of engaged employees has decreased, the amount of actively disengaged employees has stayed relatively the same, from 13% to 14%. This percentage is defined as those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues. 

The remaining 54% of workers are considered “not engaged” meaning they are psychologically unattached to their work and company. These employees are putting in the minimum effort required and likely looking for better opportunities. 


What Caused The Drop in Employee Engagement? 

When analyzing the trends, Gallup found that the largest decline in employee engagement was among those in managerial or leadership positions, as well as non-White respondents and those with Democratic political party affiliation or independents. The drop was also sharper for people working on-site versus at home, as well as among blue-collar or service workers. 

These trends provide a lot of insight into what greater issues may have caused the significant decrease:

1. The Killing of George Floyd

The killing of George Floyd awakened the world to social injustice and pushed for inclusivity and diversity like never before. It is possible that this could have caused disruptions in the workplace, forcing management to place an emphasis on improving their internal processes, rather than performance-related elements alone. If employers are not responding appropriately to racial injustice, their teams could also be affected and searching for other opportunities.  

2. Uncertainty and Ineffective Communication

Since the start of the pandemic, employers have really been flying by the seat of their pants. Many states have been going in and out of easing restrictions and no one really knows when normalcy will return. This can definitely be discouraging to employees, when they really have no clear insight in which direction the company is moving. Providing clarity is everything and can make or break the difference between engaged and not-engaged employees. 

3. Furloughed Employees Returning to Work

In May, Gallup found that employees who were laid off or furloughed had a slightly lower engagement than those who continued to be employed. Some of these previously laid-off employees have begun returning to the workforce, which could account for a slight drop in engagement, however it is unlikely this is causing the seven-point percentage drop. 


How Do We Improve Employee Engagement? 

Ultimately the first step in building employee engagement is to improve communication between employees and management. 

Employees are facing a variety of challenges including:

  • Uncertainty following state openings
  • Continued health and financial risk
  • The push for change surrounding race relations and social injustice

As managers we must be aware of all of these elements, as well as constantly push to build inclusive workplace cultures and promote diversity in hiring and promotion practices. For many, it can be difficult to have these conversations and increase employee voice if that foundation of trust is not already there. Our blog, How to Encourage Employee Voice and Increase Employee Engagement, highlights how to create a culture of openness and ensure employees feel comfortable enough to express their thoughts and opinions. 

Using survey tools such as our employee engagement survey are also a great way to understand how your workplace is handling these issues and monitor engagement levels within your own organization. Loosely based on the Gallup Q12 survey, our employee engagement survey targets the main factors influencing engagement in order to improve workplace challenges, boost productivity, and strengthen employee bonds. Engagement surveys also keep employee anonymity, while providing opportunities for them to express their feelings on what may or may not be working in the organization.  

Throughout the month of August we are continuing to offer our employee engagement survey for free. Sign up today to better understand how your employees and engagement are being affected in 2020. 

Employee Engagement Survey | C.A. Short Company

To read the full article published by Gallup, click here.

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