Declining Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement – def. from Wikipedia –  An “engaged employee” is defined as one who is
fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the
organization’s reputation and interests. An engaged employee has a positive attitude toward the
organization and its values. [1]  In contrast, a disengaged employee may range from someone
doing the bare minimum at work (aka ‘coasting’) to an employee actively damaging the
company’s work output and reputation.

Each year, Gallup conducts a global employee engagement survey using the 12 questions
(factors) that have defined this concept for decades. The percentage of engaged employees has
remained flat at about one-third for nearly two decades. There was an improvement to 36% in
2020 but a decline to 34.5% in 2021 and 32% in early 2022.

So, what’s happening here or, more accurately, why? I have some theories as follows:

1. One of the impacts of COVID has been a re-examination of work-life balance by the
workforce. Then came the Great Resignation, which persists beyond the time of
payments to workers during COVID.
2. Millennial and Gen Z generations place greater importance on their work experience,
opportunities for advancement, and development. When those go unmet, they are inclined
to move on.
3. Raising engagement scores or solving the engagement riddle has been given to Human
Resources departments. Based on their ongoing research, Franchise Business Review

continues to advise, “By introducing, implementing, and organizing employee
engagement activities, HR can foster a stimulating workplace that values each employee’s
individual contributions and recognizes productive collaboration…Lastly, the HR
department must play the role of gatekeeper for employee engagement”. Herein lies the
problem: HR is often viewed as the gatekeeper rather than the creator and nurturer of best
practices. A gatekeeper is not what is needed but rather a champion, a meaningful level
of investment, and evaluation to define and disseminate best practices by individual
Is raising engagement worth it?
A 2013 Gallup poll found that the actual cost of employee disengagement was $2,246 per
disengaged employee or 18% of an employee’s salary. Other estimates place the price at as
much as 34%. Nationally, the impact estimate is $400B. Thus, if you had 100 employees, the
cost would be $224,000.

Gallup reports that companies with engaged employees are 21% more profitable, experience
59% less turnover, 41% less turnover, and 10% higher customer ratings.

Given the costs of disengagement and the potential profits from engagement, it is worth
exploring whether effective engagement programs can be deployed and would they generate a
return on investment. I believe the answer is “yes”.

How to raise engagement?
A 2020 blog from Give and Take Inc. cites the following seven causal factors of disengagement:
Recognition shortfall
Lack of communication
High levels of work stress
Lack of empathy
Absence of good employee relationships
Lack of transparency
The quality of the relationship between employee and manager primarily determines these
factors. The manager is the employee’s window to the company, the primary connection of
influence, and the source of potential cures to most causal factors. In short, the investment should
be in manager training and development, not HR-driven programs to raise connection to the

However, organizations generally under-invest in training their people managers. A recent study
found that 84% of managers received no training in their first three years, and over 80% wanted
more training. The following are the knowledge, skills, and actions people managers need to
raise engagement:

Understanding that the product of people management is people development, not
supervision or oversight
Commitment to helping employees reach their full potential
How to establish and maintain meaningful relationships
How to communicate effectively in one-on-one meetings
How to give honest and constructive feedback
How to deal with employee personal problems impacting performance
How to diagnose and correct lapses in people management that lead to reduced
performance and disengagement
How to gauge level of motivation and to correctly identify those who are pretending
motivation and production
How to coach/mentor
Development and execution of action plans executed by manager and employee to raise
performance or reach employee goals
Building teamwork and improving team performance
I cover much of this in my book, Creating High Performers 1, and detail an easy-to-use
methodology I now call The Question Method® that has been proven to raise engagement. The
Question Method® is a low-cost, easy-to-implement means to achieve higher engagement scores
and, thus, higher performance.

Contact me at

1 Dann, W., Creating High Performers, Growth Press, 2021. Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop