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I Guess Engagement Isn’t In Such a Bad Place After All

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According to the 2013 State of the American Workforce published by Gallup, 70 percent of American workers are either unengaged in their work or actively disengaged. Of course, this seems to occur each and every year, as the supposed alarm bell is rung about employee engagement.

However, in 2012, a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 67 percent of U.S. workers reported staying at their jobs because they enjoy the work they do and the job fits well with other areas of their lives. Furthermore, 56 percent reported that they stay because they feel connected to the organization, and 51 percent reported that they stay because their job gives them the opportunity to make a difference. Only 39 percent reported that they stay because of a lack of job opportunities elsewhere.

Now, let’s flash forward to 2013. Another APA poll, and other less alarmist results. This time, 56 percent of U.S. workers reported that they are energized by their work, and 70 percent reported that the work they do is meaningful.

According to Wilhelm Schaufeli, a researcher who worked to develop a psychometrically sound, construct-valid measure of work engagement, engagement can be defined as “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor (i.e., high levels of energy and mental resilience), dedication (i.e., exceptionally strong involvement in one’s work) and absorption (i.e., being totally engrossed in one’s work).”

A review of the Gallup Q12, on which much of the alarmist calls are based, defines engaged employees as those who “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.” Though that sounds like a consistent definition of engagement, a closer look at the actual items on the Q12 reveals that one item, at best (i.e., Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?) is actually a direct assessment of actual engagement. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how having a best friend at work, opportunities to learn and grow and positive attitudes regarding co-worker commitment to their work is an actual assessment of work engagement.

The answer, of course, is that Gallup’s Q12 does not actually assess engagement, any more than APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace framework is a work engagement framework. Sure, Gallup’s items may be tapping into some elements that can influence engagement, but it is certainly not a measure of engagement itself.

In reviewing the State of the Workforce 2013 Report, I couldn’t locate a single breakdown by item, so I was unable to see how Gallup’s actual engagement item compares to the APA poll results. What I do know is this: Organizations, in general, can always do a better job of improving their work environments, their management practices, and the way employees interface with their jobs. However, to ring an alarmist bell about work engagement as the primary issue seems more than a bit overblown.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/debsilver / CC BY-NC 2.0

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Matt Grawitch published on September 4, 2013 1:21 PM.

Healthy Employees, Profitable Bottom Lines: Delivering on the Value of Health Promotion and Worksite Wellness was the previous entry in this blog.

Work & Well-Being 2013: San Francisco in 140 Characters or Less is the next entry in this blog.

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