85% of adults worldwide are not engaged at their job (Gallup State of the Global Workplace report).
But the more we learn about employee disengagement and the reasons behind it, the more we understand how complex the issue really is. Indeed, employee engagement is about people, about what motivates and drives them. As with any human concept, it is a multidimensional issue with no “one size fits all” answer.
Let’s examine the reasons commonly mentioned as hindering employee engagement, grouping them in categories.
Frustrations with the workplace
When their work environment or policies do not match their expectations, employees get frustrated. Those small or big frustrations hinder employee satisfaction and engagement.
Lack of workplace flexibility is often mentioned as hindering satisfaction. Modern employees expect to be able to work remotely when needed.
Imposed outdated technology is also among the main frustrations at the workplace. Companies often offer outdated tools and technologies, while employees are accustomed to a different user experience as a consumer in the outside world.
Compensation, catering, physical workplace issues also contribute to the overall satisfaction level of the employee.
Lack of training, opportunities and self development are equally important for most employees who expect to gain new knowledge and skills.
Frustrations with lack of information
We live in the information-driven world. If anything, we have too much information at our fingertips all the time. In contrast, employees often find themselves looking for information inside the company and not finding it.
Unclear leadership vision can result from lack of communication, causing lack of motivation in the workforce.
In a similar way, employees struggle to find meaning in their daily tasks and lack of meaning is often mentioned as a cause of employee disengagement.
Lack of trust in management also comes up in the list of reasons for employee disengagement and results from poor communication.
Frustrations with social environment
People are social beings, accustomed to living in a community. Social bonds, the feeling of importance inside a community, are crucial factors to human happiness. Similarly, in the work environment, employees need to feel part of a community, of a team.
Thus, lack of teamwork spirit, lack of collaboration and social isolation are mentioned as causing employee dissatisfaction.
Lack of recognition
Our last category is perhaps the most important. Employees need to be empowered to contribute and then need recognition for their positive contributions to the workplace. When something goes wrong in the empowerment/recognition system, originally motivated employees become less motivated and less engaged.
Reasons such as command and control leadership, unclear compensation policy, obscure peer-to-peer reviews and undervalued personal contributions are often at the root of employee disengagement.
Which causes are the most important?
The above list is long and probably not comprehensive.
In recent years, employee concerns consistently and slowly but surely shifted from compensation to other fundamental concerns. This evolution is clearly visible in Gallup reports from 2012 – almost each year, the importance of compensation in overall job satisfaction decreases while factors such as management, vision, collaboration and self-development gain in momentum.
So which issues should you tackle first if you wanted to improve employee engagement? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question as all of the above need to be addressed in parallel. The good news is that there are ways to do so, using transverse[VM1] approaches, which we will examine in our next post.
In the meantime, I want to finish with a quote by Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, that wonderfully summarizes the modern workplace and culture shift.
Of course, all employees need fair pay. But they are now driven more than ever by mission and purpose and require a workplace culture that delivers it.
Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup