Just 15% of employees are engaged. The rest lose $7 trillion in productivity

29 May 2018 Consultancy.uk

An alarmingly small minority of just 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged in their work. Leading analytics and performance management consultancy Gallup estimates the global costs of unproductivity at a staggering $7 trillion and advises firms on how best to reclaim lost profit.

Employee engagement and workplace productivity are inextricably linked. Studies repeatedly confirm that employees who are absorbed in and enthusiastic about their work perform better and create more value for their organisation. Yet extensive new analysis from Gallup – renowned for its pioneering research methodology – reveals engaged employees to be in the minority.

Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workforce’ report is an exhaustive breakdown of data accrued from employees across 155 countries. Researchers found that, globally, just 15%, or slightly over a sixth, of workers were actively engaged in their jobs. This figure varies considerably across countries and regions, but never exceeds 40%. The cost to the global economy in lost productivity? Estimated at $7 trillion annually by the experts. 

Strikingly, the percentage of employees who are not merely disengaged but decidedly discouraged by their role is higher – at 18% – than those who are excited by it. Outside the extremes of antipathetic and enthusiastic workers live the majority of the global workforce (67%) who are simply not engaged. “They are not your worst performers,” explain the authors, “but they are indifferent to your organisation. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas.”

One pattern identified in the 215-page report is that employees in routinised roles, typically in manufacturing and production, tend to be less engaged. But considerable differences across regions that transcend industries and roles suggest that managerial philosophies and workplace cultures play a compelling part in driving employee engagement.

Just 15% of the global workforce feel engaged in their jobs

Western societies

A notable contrast is between North America and Western Europe – two of the world’s wealthiest and most developed regions which share similar employment statistics, working patterns and standards of living. Employee engagement across the US and Canada stands at 31%, the highest of any region, while in Western Europe the figure is below the global average at just 10%. 

Gallup – whose best practice clients enjoy employee engagement levels of 70% – attributes this vast Atlantic gulf to an American managerial culture that embraces individuality. Even within Western Europe there is a marked North/South divide, with engagement reaching a peak of 17% in Norway, where employees enjoy more flexibility, and plummeting to below 10% in France, Italy and Spain, where company cultures are more rigid.

The lowest engagement levels are in East Asia. Notoriously overworked, just 6% of employees in China and Japan feel engaged in their daily routine. In South Korea and Taiwan the figure is 7%, while in Hong Kong it falls to 5%. Gallup found that East Asian workers were the least likely to like what they do each day. The report cites a “collectivist mentality” that pushes individual needs aside as the chief culprit behind the region’s woeful lack of engagement. 

In Australia/New Zealand, 14% of workers consider themselves motivated and productive. Interestingly the region’s workforce rate their lives as a whole very favourably, giving themselves a healthy 7.4 out of 10 for life quality – the highest of any region. But, as Gallup notes, something is rotten in the workplace Down Under if high life satisfaction is undercut by low engagement levels. 

Engaged workforce bolsters productivity

Engagement translates to productivity. Gallup’s own global employee engagement database records that organisations in the top quartile for engagement are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. A global leader in using analytics and behavioural science to drive performance improvement, Gallup is keenly aware of how much profit is being flushed down the sink by poor managerial practices.

Keeping up with rapid technological change, empowering employees, adapting to expectations, and enhancing workplace cultures are just some of the strategies Gallup consider in advising organisations on how to reclaim at least some of the $7 trillion lost each year. Though engagement levels of 100% might be unrealistic, the consulting firm’s own results with clients show that figures surpassing 70% are far from unachievable.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.