The sad truth of the matter is that workplace engagement is at an extremely low point, and it’s having a negative impact on the collective production of the U.S. economy as a whole. Why is this a big problem? And what factors have caused the engagement level to be so low in the American workplace?
What’s causing employee engagement in the US to be so low?
Part of the problem with employee engagement may be linked to the recent economic downturn that began around 2008. While most experts believe that the Great Recession was over, numbers from the BLS show that unemployment was still above 6% as of August 2014. Between January of 2005 and April of 2008, the unemployment rate never reached over 5.5%. A difficult job market sometimes leads job candidates to take a position that is less than ideal for them, posing significant challenges when it comes to workplace engagement.
Another modern challenge of engagement is the changing dynamic of the workforce: specifically, the rise of the millennial generation, also known as Generation Y. Generally speaking millennials are the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. This generation has a very distinct set of workplace characteristics: Pew says that not only are they the most racially diverse generation in American history, they are also highly educated and very familiar with digital technology. The name “digital natives” is an apt title that many are using in reference to millennials. Innovation Generation is another title that’s been bestowed upon this group.
How is generation Y impacting employee engagement? This generation brings a vastly different set of values to the workplace when compared to previous generations of American employees. According to Time, millennials value immediate answers and feedback from their supervisors, flexible work schedules, and transparent organizations. Further, millennials care about more than just money: half of all millennials reported that they would rather have no job than a job they hate. It is clear that managers thinking about how to engage employees will soon need to adapt their engagement strategies to this generation. Like it or not, by 2025, projections show that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.
A big part of the employee engagement fix
To engage with millennials and other employees, organizations need to invest in individual development plans that help align organizational goals with the passions and interests of their employees. An individual approach is the best way to handle this task, since it accounts for generational and aspirational differences in employees. Implementing a process that enables this segment of employees’
ability to bring their full selves to work will go a long way at increasing employee engagement numbers across the US.