Gallup report calls for action on UK employee engagement

17th July by Lee Robertson

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According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report nearly 90% of UK employees are disengaged from their job and are either quiet or loud quitting.

With just 10% of workers feeling engaged or thriving in the workplace, the UK is ranked 33rd on Gallup’s table of employee engagement in European countries. Only Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy and Northern Cyprus scored lower. By comparison, the US reported triple the number of engaged employees at 31% and 23% of the world’s employees were reported to be engaged in 2022, making it the highest level since Gallup began measuring this data in 2009.

As Gallup stresses, this report captures the voice of the world’s employees, so where should leaders and their HR practitioners start to better the experience for their employees so that they thrive at work and in life?

Focus on your winnable employees

Gallup recommends starting by looking at how those employees who are quiet quitting can be better engaged by making a few changes in the workplace.

According to the report, nearly six in 10 employees are quietly quitting. These workers are filling a seat and watching the clock. They are observed as putting in the minimum effort required and are likely to be psychologically disconnected from their employer. Although they are minimally productive, they are more likely to be stressed or burned out compared to thriving workers and will feel lost and disconnected from the workplace.

However, Gallup describes this subsection of workers as an organisation’s low hanging fruit for productivity gains, growth and change. They are ready to be inspired and motivated if, as Gallup states, they are coached in the right way.

When asked what employers could do to improve the workplace, 85% of the responses offered by those in the quiet quitting cohort, were related to engagement or culture, pay and benefits and wellbeing and work/life balance. Forty-one per cent cited culture and engagement with a wishlist including being recognised for their contributions, being granted more autonomy, managers who were more approachable, everyone having a fair chance of promotion and clearer goals and stronger guidance.

Answers from 28% on pay and benefits centred on being paid on time, salaries being more proportional to qualifications and merit and rewards given to employees for the excellent results achieved by the organisation. Sixteen per cent related to wellbeing with workers wanting less overtime, health and life being taken more seriously and being able to work from home more.

As Gallup asserts, looking at the bigger picture, low-engagement workers represent an immense opportunity for economic growth. So much so, that it estimates that low engagement costs the global economy US$8.8 trillion and accounts for 9% of global GDP. Gallup also reminds us that leadership and management directly influence workplace engagement, and there is much that organisations can do to help their employees thrive at work.

Give them a better manager

Over the past three years, Gallup says it has used the best science to train over 14,000 managers to be effective coaches. It claims that up to eighteen months after their training, their engagement is 10% to 22% higher and also at, nine to 18 months later, their teams’ engagement has ranged from eight per cent to 18% higher. Gallup also reveals that there has been a 21% to 28% reduction in employee turnover.

Gallup argues that the manager is the lynchpin of engagement and that 70% of team engagement is attributable to the manager. But it also points out that many or most of your managers are quiet quitting too. They are also waiting for the tools to build great teams.

As the report says, the good news is that cutting-edge, science-based management can be taught and coach skills training provides a good start in creating a wider coaching or learning culture.

Managers need better leadership skills such as communication which will help them improve the culture within their teams and the workplace on the whole. Employers need to be fostering a company culture which is conducive to their people feeling valued, respected and recognised for their contribution to the organisation’s success.

This can be achieved by enabling managers to cultivate a positive and inclusive environment where employees feel supported, heard and can collaborate more closely with their colleagues. A few changes to how people are managed can turn them into productive team members, so better contact and communication between managers and direct reports or team members can make the world of difference.

As Gallup upholds, ‘by switching to proven, science-based management, organisations could change the course of the economy — and world history. It’s that important.’