Not even a third of employees say they feel engaged at work

Less than one-third of employees report they are engaged, enthusiastic and energised by their work, according to a new report from Gartner. The survey was showcased during the Gartner ReimagineHR Conference, which took place this week. Gartner defines engagement in three ways: employees feeling energised; employees finding purpose in their work; employees feeling empowered to do valuable work.

“Despite organisations making investments in engaging their employees, our research shows that almost 70 percent don’t feel as engaged as they should be and aren’t feeling a meaningful connection to their job,” said Keyia Burton, senior principal, advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “Figuring out how to actually impact employee engagement is a huge priority because it has a significant impact on several key business outcomes.”

A June 2023 Gartner survey of nearly 3,500 employees found that those who report being energized and excited about their work are 31 percent more likely to stay at their organisation, 31 percent more likely to go above and beyond (discretionary effort), and they contribute 15 percent more.

The Gartner survey also revealed one of the main issues impacting engagement: employee dissatisfaction with what happens after they provide feedback on their experience of their employer and workplace. In fact, only one-third of employees believe their organisation will act on their feedback, while 46 percent of employees wish their organisation did more to address employee feedback.

“This perceived lack of action has created barriers that are preventing employees from connecting to and benefiting from engagement initiatives,” said Burton.

To successfully close the action gap, HR needs to address three challenges that face employee engagement today:


Solve the right problems

HR often uses employee engagement surveys to solicit feedback and then tries to act on that feedback by providing more via enhanced or additional solutions. However, offering more in the form of recognition and development often feels like more work that needs to be done from an employee perspective.

The June 2023 Gartner survey found that 40 percent of employees would prefer fixes to difficult processes over development opportunities. To increase engagement, HR should engage in active dialogue with employees to identify and reduce work friction – the things that make employees’ every day harder – while also providing needed and desired development opportunities.


Finish the job

Organisations have spent a significant amount of time and money trying to increase and maintain employee engagement to no avail. Gartner research revealed that one commonality is that managers are responsible for much of the engagement process.


A 2Q23 Gartner survey of 144 CHROs found that the majority of CHROs report managers are responsible for 10 out of 12 actions to engage employees. Yet only 19 percent of CHROs believe their managers know how to act on engagement feedback.

HR must do a better job of supporting managers in both planning to engage employees and executing those plans. This includes helping managers understand engagement data faster and co-creating engagement plans that require manager commitment to action with joint agreement on specific next steps.

“When organisations are effective at supporting managers in engagement action planning, they can increase employee engagement by 51 percent,” added Burton.


Make it relevant for people

Sixty percent of employees don’t understand what their organisation is currently doing to increase engagement. Gartner analysis found that this is in part because “engagement” is an HR term that doesn’t resonate with employees.

HR needs to use a common, shared language to measure and talk about people and experiences, rather than engagement, with employees.

“When HR takes action to make their engagement initiatives more relevant so that employees understand what their organisation is doing to engage them, employee engagement increases by 49 percent,” said Burton.