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What's *Really* Driving Employee Disengagement
It's not remote work.
It’s no secret that American workers are, ahem, unsettled. Little wonder. Depending on who you ask, we’re either headed for a recession or in the hottest labor market in decades. We’re either ‘quiet quitting’ by doing the bare minimum at work or ‘rage applying’ to land enormous raises.
If you’re confused, don’t worry: Companies can’t seem to figure out our post-pandemic normal, either. Employee engagement has reached its lowest level in nearly a decade, according to a new Gallup survey. Only 32% of full- and part-time employees are now engaged, defined as "involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace.”
Given employee engagement has been linked to profitability, productivity, employee retention and customer satisfaction, the decline is a worrying sign for employers. It will be tempting for leaders to blame remote work for disengagement. After all, how can employees meaningfully connect if they’re physically separated?
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But that’s a facile interpretation of the survey’s results and what’s ailing American workers. Employees reported substantial drops in organizational satisfaction and feeling connected to their organization’s mission or purpose, no matter where they worked (including fully remote employees).
What’s really missing is a sense of connection, and that’s true for employees who work from home, from an office, or both. What’s really missing is care.
One of the measures of engagement that dropped the most in the last few years was “feeling cared about at work,” particularly for women and younger workers, Gallup reports. Despite expanding their wellness benefits during the pandemic—providing more paid leave, subsidized child care and mental health programs—companies still can’t convince employees they truly care. Why?
Several recent studies suggest that companies are failing to equip managers to convey that care. So what would a truly caring manager look like? Here are our suggestions:
Care About Growth
Caring managers want their employees to succeed and get promoted. Not just because it’s better for the company’s bottom line, but also because they derive satisfaction from mentoring young employees.
This stewardship is especially crucial for women, who are less likely to get promoted at each rung of the career ladder than their male peers. Tellingly, in the Gallup survey, women saw larger declines in “having someone who encourages their development” as compared to men. Clearly, managers aren’t effectively conveying they care about the career growth of their female team members.
Same goes for young employees. As compared to older employees, workers under 35 reported greater declines in “having someone who encourages their development,” as well as “opportunities to learn and grow” and “their opinions counting.”
Of course, clear expectations are crucial for helping employees succeed—and the survey suggests managers are failing here, too. “Clarity of expectations was lower across many demographic groups including age, gender, managerial status, remote working status, and job types,” the organization reports.
Care About Work-Life Concerns
Gallup points to “Managers not being in touch with the ongoing work-life challenges,” as one of the key factors driving a lack of clarity for employees. Parents are still struggling to find child care, and employees are still struggling with their mental health. Not only must managers convey sympathy and understanding, they must allow their employees to access the benefits their company provides without shame or stigma—or pressure to continue peak performance.
Conversely, companies must offer benefits that meet the moment. A caring manager can only do so much without real solutions for reducing work-life stress. Employers must offer benefits like child care assistance, but they should make sure the programs match what employees want and need. Our new Work-Life Wallet, for example, allows employers to reimburse workers for a range of expenses, from child care to household help, no questions asked.
Care About Connections
Empathetic managers forge strong bonds with their employees, and help their employees forge strong bonds with team members. This is especially important for young workers, who reported large declines in “having a best friend at work.”
Gallup recommends that managers hold one meaningful 15 to 30 minutes conversation per week with each employee, about goals, customers, wellbeing and recognition. “We find this single habit develops high-performance relationships more than any other single leadership activity,” the organization reports.
Get the most out of your employee benefits by understanding exactly how they work! Stephanie Schomer, Editor-in-Chief of Employee Benefit News, will break down everything you need to know. Register here to join us at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 31, for this info-packed digital event. You work hard. Use the benefits you’ve earned!
GET THE WORK-LIFE WALLET:
Stop wasting money. Redirect cash from ineffective EAP programs and directly empower your employees to meet their unique work-life needs. With Mother Honestly’s NEW work-life wallet, employees can access support for an array of work-life needs, including child care, elder care, pet care, self care, household chores and more. Employees link their debit card or bank account, and we screen and qualify work-life related expenses for reimbursement within seconds. Learn how your company can support caregivers with our Work-Life Wallet!
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