How to Increase Employee Engagement

Workers are still feeling uncertain about their role on the job, which has implication for association staffs and the industries they serve.

As a buzzword, “quiet quitting” is a thing of the past. But as a factor in the workplace, it remains very much a reality.

According to a new report from Gallup, employee engagement still hasn’t quite recovered from the pandemic, with 50 percent of workers categorized as disengaged—that is, quiet quitting. “Compared with 2020, employees still feel more detached from—and less satisfied with—their organizations and are less likely to connect to the companies’ mission and purpose or to feel someone cares about them as a person,” a report on the survey states

That stagnation has implications not just for association staffs but for how associations support the industries they serve. After all, every association leader wants people working in their industry to feel some kind of enthusiasm for it. 

Of course, the reasons for that disengagement can vary, and many don’t necessarily have anything to do with the organization itself. According to the Gallup report, remote- and hybrid-work policies still play a substantial role. But that particular problem speaks to the broader problem of workers who feel uncertain where they stand. As a JD Supra report on employee engagement notes, employees can feel uncertain at an individual level (work-life balance, professional development), at a team level (collaboration, communication), and organizationally (transparency, values, mission). 

Remote- and hybrid-work policies still play a substantial role in employee engagement.

So addressing engagement is in large part surfacing the reasons behind that uncertainty, which means gathering data from employees. The JD Supra piece has some good advice around structuring those questions, all rooted in identifying the kinds of challenges an organization wants to address. “It’s important to consider what aspects of employee engagement you want to measure,” the article says. “Are you interested in their overall satisfaction with their job? Their level of motivation and commitment? Their perception of communication with the organization? Identifying these key drivers will help guide your question formulation.”

In that process, the article adds, it’s important to ask specific questions (“Do you feel valued for your contributions?”) and avoid broad ones (“Are you happy?”). But the organization also needs to commit to doing something with the information it gathers. Corporate CHRO Anne Buchanan told HRO Today in a recent article that it uses both feedback and hard data, compiled in a quarterly dashboard. That process ensures “we understand what’s working, what people are interested in, and what to leave behind,” she said.

Once those concerns and solutions are identified, leaders need to be as clear as possible about what it’s doing, why, and how it serves their people. Speaking to Forbes, leadership consultant Jennifer Dulski are under more pressure to set expectations and provide support in remote and hybrid environments. “Leaders need to be much more intentional about building connection and trust between colleagues,” she said. “The good news is that it’s possible to create strong connections on teams, even virtually, as long as you put focus towards it.”

There are reasons to feel optimistic about that—despite these challenges, the Gallup report notes that the percentage of actively disengaged workers (“loud quitters”) is on the decline. A certain amount of disengagement is to be expected; association leaders can’t solve every emotional issue for every worker. But it can make good-faith efforts to understand the main ones, and support their staffs and industry community while addressing them.

What has your association done to address engagement in your staff or within your industry? Share your experiences in the comments.

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