There’s a risk to not caring about employee well-being. A case can be made that it impacts one’s humanity and can certainly have a ripple effect—creating more disengaged employees whose performance is impacted. In their new book Culture Shock, Gallup chairman Jim Clifton and chief workplace scientist Jim Harter explore declining employee engagement and its impact on customers. The below book excerpt outlines five company best practices that can combat quiet quitting and impact the bottom line.
Only about one in four U.S. employees feel strongly that their organization cares about their well-being. This percentage has been trending down since it peaked at the start of the pandemic. Gallup has found similarly low numbers in Germany, France, and the U.K.
This finding has significant implications now that work and life are more blended than ever before.
Those who prefer remote work cite reduced commute times, flexibility for their family, and their well-being as some of the key reasons. In 2011, long before the pandemic, about the same percentage of U.S. employees strongly agreed that their employer cared about their overall well-being (21%).
Then at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, employers responded quickly with plans, communication, and what many employees believed was genuine concern for them. And the percentage who felt their organization cared about them nearly doubled, reaching a high of 49% in May of that year. But since 2020, the percentage has plummeted to the previous low levels.
Employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being, compared with those who don’t, are:
• 3x more likely to be engaged at work
• 69% less likely to actively search for a new job
• 71% less likely to report experiencing a lot of burnout
• 5x more likely to strongly advocate for their company as a place to work
• 5x more likely to strongly agree that they trust the leadership of their organization
• 36% more likely to be thriving in their overall lives
Gallup has also found that teams most likely to feel like the organization cares about their well-being have higher customer engagement, profitability, and productivity; lower turnover; and fewer safety incidents.
Employees’ expectations have fundamentally changed since 2020. Many employees now have new and more serious factors to consider when they think about their job, including if their employer cares about their well-being. The intersection between work and life has new meaning—upping the bar for employers.
Declining levels of employee engagement and feeling like their employer cares about their well-being—and increasing levels of dissatisfaction—are signs of a growing disconnect between employees and employers. The expectations of the new workforce don’t match the experience employees have at work. Ultimately, this disconnect has serious implications for customer retention.
From 2020 to 2022, among exclusively remote employees of all ages, we saw a significant drop in the percentage who say they are extremely proud of the quality of their organization’s products and services. This is especially true for workers below age 35, regardless of whether they work remotely, on-site, or hybrid, and for workers 35 and older who are remote. Younger employees are also less likely to feel great responsibility for the quality of their organization’s products and services.
Only one in five employees strongly agree that the leadership of their organization makes decisions that are in the customers’ best interest. This perception is highly correlated with delivering on promises to customers. Why would employees care if their leaders don’t care?
• Engaged employees are 4x as likely to feel extremely proud of the products and services their organization offers.
• Employees who experience frequent or constant burnout are 50% less likely to feel that their organization always delivers on its promise to customers.
• Among U.S. workers, approval of labor unions is at its highest point since 1965 (71%)—and the younger the worker, the more interested they are in joining a union.
These facts indicate that employees are becoming dangerously alienated from their employers. And the consequences of employee-employer detachment include less commitment and effort from employees to go the extra mile for customers, less loyalty to the organization, and higher turnover.
Only 21% of global and 32% of U.S. employees are engaged. But here’s the good news: Some organizations have achieved 13x the global engagement average.
Each year, Gallup identifies organizations that beat the overall engagement average, create exceptional cultures and deliver superior customer value. These organizations averaged 70% or more engaged employees even during a highly disruptive 2021 and 2022.
The best-run organizations build cultures where employees feel like leadership genuinely cares about them. These organizations have at least 6 in 10 employees who strongly agree that their organization cares about their overall well-being.
Here’s what they do differently:
• build trust in leadership by making decisions that reflect the organization’s values
• embrace flexible work environments while developing plans for the future
• take employee well-being (mental health) seriously
• use transparent and creative multichannel communication with employees and customers (e.g., podcasts, a company app, virtual town halls, YouTube)
• upskill managers to coach through times of change so they are equipped to manage performance effectively, and so they can be the key conduit for progress on the four items above
The pandemic caused a “great forced experiment” that gave organizations and employees an opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t.
Culture Shock is available through Gallup Press.