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US employee engagement stagnates at 33%, reflecting shifts in workplace dynamics

Gallup's latest survey reveals fluctuating trends in the work environment.

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Employee engagement has remained stagnant at 33%.
45% stating they clearly understand what is expected of them at work.
Workers aged 35 and older have experienced minimal change.

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Employee engagement in the United States has remained stagnant at 33%, indicating a slight dip from the midyear high of 34%, as per Gallup’s latest survey.

The annual overview of U.S. employee engagement has displayed a fluctuating trend, reaching its pinnacle at 40% in 2020 before experiencing a downturn in subsequent years. The current figure of 33% falls short of the high recorded in 2020 and the peak of 36% in the same year.

Engagement levels had consistently risen over the past decade, but the second half of 2021 marked a turning point, hitting a low of 32% in 2022. “In 2023, employees in the U.S. continued to feel more disconnected from their employers, with less defined expectations, reduced satisfaction with their organization, and a weaker connection to its mission or purpose than four years ago,” noted Jim Harter, Chief Scientist of Workplace Management & Wellbeing at Gallup, on their website.

Actively disengaged employees

These statistics are noteworthy as each percentage point shift in engagement represents around 1.6 million full- or part-time U.S. employees, according to Gallup. They emphasize that the economic impact of disengagement results in approximately $1.9 trillion in lost productivity nationwide.

Simultaneously, the survey findings indicate a decrease in actively disengaged workers from 18% in 2022 to 16% in 2023. However, the prevalence of not engaged employees, categorized as “quiet quitting,” remains at 50%.

The engagement ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers has improved to 2.1-to-1 in 2023, up from 1.8-to-1 in the previous year, but it falls short of the record high ratio of 2.7-to-1 in 2019.

Role clarity for improved employee engagement

The survey also unveils that the “most fundamental” engagement element of role clarity has seen a decline.

Understanding expectations at work increased by three percentage points since 2022 but has decreased since midyear.

“Having materials and equipment and having the opportunity to do what you do best also increased for the year (two points), but both decreased since midyear,” Harter highlighted.

This lack of clarity could present a substantial challenge for organizational leaders, as role clarity is recognized to impact productivity, employee retention, safety, customer engagement, and overall employee well-being.

Younger workers, under 35, have seen a modest increase in engagement by two points in the past year but still lag behind their 2020 peak levels by five points, according to the report.

The decline in role clarity is particularly pronounced among younger workers, with only 45% stating they clearly understand what is expected of them at work.

Workers aged 35 and older have experienced minimal change, still significantly trailing behind their 2020 peak levels on satisfaction with their company, clarity of expectations, and the opportunity to do what they do best.

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