Despite The Pandemic, Employee Engagement is Skyrocketing

It’s a strange time. A recent poll of 2,000 Americans found that only 5% believe things are “going well” and 40% believe they’re “going badly.” And new research by Towers Watson shows that employees are more stressed about health and financial security than ever.

But in the middle of all this, another trend has emerged: employers are lavishing support on their people. Two independent studies just found that Employee Engagement, the measure of an employee’s satisfaction with their employer and their job, has reached the highest level ever. It’s both an astounding and enlightening trend.

First, The Research

The first study was published by Gallup on May 29, and it surveyed 4,724 employees from mid-April to mid-May. It concludes that the percentage of employees who are “actively disengaged” is at a ten year low and that the ratio of highly engaged to disengaged employees is at an all-time high. 

Gallup Engagement

The second study, released today, is even more significant. It was performed by Quantum Workplace and compares Best Place to Work data among 700,000 employees in 2019 against 470,000 employees in the first five months of 2020. It concludes, after looking at more than a decade of data, that employee engagement increased by 11% this year, again reaching an all-time high.

With more than 1.1 million respondents, this is a very large survey, covering virtually every industry.

The Quantum study shows that the biggest contributors to these positive results are a year-to-year increases in:

  • Leadership support (83% believe leaders value people as their most important resource, 8% YTY increase)
  • Communications (77% know what the organization is doing and why, 7% YTY increase)
  • Compensation (77% believe they are paid fairly, 7% YTY increase)
  • Benefits (85% believe benefits meet their family’s needs, a 5% YTY increase).

These findings are very significant. After studying trends in employee engagement for years, I had concluded that it’s almost impossible to move the needle. While some companies outperform in their care for employees, year after year I found that only a third of employees feel fully engaged at work.

The Quantum research, which uses a different methodology than Gallup, shows that 74% of respondents are “highly engaged” (up from a low of 66% in 2010 and 65% in 2015). Gallup’s data, which uses a more stringent definition of engagement, shows an all-time high of 38%. (Gallup’s measurement is more unforgiving because it categorizes “Actively Disengaged” as a category. In Gallup’s data, 13% are actively disengaged, an all time low. (Actively Disengaged means that the employee is so unhappy they may disparage or undermine their employer.)

So while the methodologies are different, they both tell us the same thing. Employees today are very happy to have their jobs.

What Does This Tell Us

The most obvious conclusion is that people with jobs are grateful. Given an unemployment rate of over 15%, people are just happy to have any job at all. But the data shows a much deeper trend. Employers are treating people exceptionally well.

Over the last economic cycle, wages have been falling behind the cost of living, and employee anxiety was increasing. Now, despite continued efforts to automate work, employer are increasing wages and benefits and bending over backward to take care of their people.

As we are finding in The Big Reset Initiative, executives are communicating daily, raising wages and benefits, improving sick-pay, and finding creative ways to build relationships and reduce stress. In our Big Reset Town Hall you will hear 8 of the world’s largest employers explain what they’ve done to help people succeed in this tremendously uncertain and stressful time.

And employee engagement must be an episodic, day-by-day investment. In the last 10 weeks, employees have faced health risk, family stress, children at home, gun violence, Black injustice, and an increasingly dysfunctional political system. In late March, when employers fully started to “lean in” and invest in employees in a big way, engagement shot up to 83%. Now, as employers are starting to reopen workplaces the numbers have dropped slightly. 

engagement by quantum workplace

The bottom line is something Human Resources teams understand: by supporting employees the company can transform and survive. All our research during the Pandemic shows that companies which “lean in” to the crisis and invest in their people (Verizon, Wal-Mart, Target, ServiceNow, and many others) are outperforming their peers. People are the most resilient part of the organization: when they are supported the entire company can thrive.

Please join us at The Big Reset Town Hall this week to hear all about the massive changes taking place at work. 

It’s unfortunate it took a Pandemic to create this change, but let’s hope this is the beginning of a long term trend.