Gallup has released its third State of the American Workplace report, a detailed look into the modern workforce. The report is the culmination of Gallup’s in-depth research and study of attraction, retention, engagement, and performance strategy in the workplace. The report was put together using data from more than 195,600 US employees using the Gallup Panel and Gallup Daily tracking in 2015 and 2016, and more than 31 million respondents through Gallup’s Q Client Database.

First launched in 2010, the report has become an invaluable tool for analyzing the state of the American workplace. The data is useful for CEO’s and economists alike, but it contains key figures that should serve as warning signs to the modern manager. Once again, the report has found that companies should be spending more time focusing on employee engagement.

Gallup found that only 33% of employees are engaged in their job. As a result of this, 51% are actively looking for a new place of work, and 35% report changing jobs in the past three years.

Reasons why employees are leaving their jobs

This is making it harder and harder for companies to retain talented staff. This is in spite of the fact that the majority of respondents said that being able to do what they do best in a job is one of their top priorities, and Gallup found that the longer you stayed with a company, the more likely it is that you will be able to do just that.

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So why are employees jumping ship when their current employer offers them greater security? The fact is, many companies simply aren’t doing enough to work on employee engagement. While 37% of engaged employees are looking for jobs or at least keeping an eye out for possible opportunities, 56% of disengaged employees are actively seeking new jobs and 73% are monitoring the market.

This is about more than just compensation, it’s about how well treated an employee feels and how much of an impact they can have on a company and its corporate culture. The cost of not focusing on employee engagement? Incredibly high.

Gallup estimates that ‘actively disengaged employees cost the US $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity’. Organizations invest a lot of time and money into building their customer brand, but they often overlook their employer brand. 53% of employees responded by saying that having a greater work-life balance and better personal well-being was ‘very important’ to them, compared with 41% who said that a ‘significant increase in income is very important’ to them when considering a change in job.

Your employees care about more than just what you are paying them at the end of the month, but that doesn’t mean that you can overlook benefits and perks. Free lunches, gym memberships, and tuition reimbursement are just some of the examples of benefits that companies are now offering employees in an attempt to sweeten the deal of working for them. You may not be able to afford all of these benefits, but the ones that employees care the most about are the ones that offer them greater flexibility, autonomy, and the ability to lead a better life. Many of those, like flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely, are free.

gallup findings on employee's most wanted benefits

In spite of the mounting evidence that employee engagement is increasingly important, both in terms of the financial performance of a company and the ability to retain talented staff, the response to this data has been slow.

Gallup findings on improvement in employee engagement over time

So how can you improve employee engagement? Well, the answer is surprisingly simple. Aside from offering better compensation and benefits, it just requires a few small changes in the workplace. Providing more positive feedback, allowing employees the opportunity to work on projects that interest them more, and providing a feeling that employees can learn and grow are all relatively easy fixes. One of the other changes that Gallup found could make one of the biggest differences? The feeling that opinions count. An opportunity to express new ideas and have a voice regardless of position or seniority.

That change doesn’t require a lot of effort. It may take a while to increase pay packages or introduce new expensive benefit plans, but it doesn’t take long to put in place programs that will allow your employees to feel as if they can share a good idea and be heard. Giving your employees a voice is important. After all, based on the Gallup findings – can you really afford not to?