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4 Reasons Why Investing in Employee Engagement Matters

Image via Tiut Vlad/

Since the start of the new millennium, we’ve been asked to “do more with less,” usually for less. And the patchwork is beginning to tear. Employers need new ways to encourage workers to improve productivity, especially in government. Enough ink has been spilt detailing the government’s long-term budget woes, so we won’t belabor the point. Just know this: if agencies wish to achieve their goals over the next five years, they will need to ask even more of their current workforce.

Yesterday on EIG, we explained the “what” of employee engagement, taking you through the difference between engagement and satisfaction. Today, we’re exploring why employee engagement is worth investing in. Often criticized as another HR fad, employee engagement, like workforce satisfaction or 360 degree reviews before it, is the next evolution of ways to measure and improve productivity.

(Feeling Engaged? Share your voice in GovExec's largest employee engagement study)

A recent report by Dale Carnegie Training noted that those working in government or military are more likely to be disengaged. Thus, we present to you, for your consideration, four reasons why employee engagement matters, and why managers should start measuring it.

1) Engaged workers improve profitability; disengagement costs federal agencies $65 billion a year in lost productivity.

Engaged workers are key to successful organizations and businesses. They drive innovation, account for the largest portions of growth and are vastly more productive than their satisfied or disengaged coworkers. A Kenexa study found that the most engaged companies achieved twice as much net annual income as the least engaged companies, and a Towers Watson report found that companies with sustainably engaged employees had an average operating margin of 27 percent.

Growth is not the only thing at stake, as disengaged workers cost federal agencies $65 billion annually, according to Deloitte. Organizations with engaged workers are more successful and lose less money to lost productivity.

2) Employee turnover costs US business $11 billion a year and disengaged or satisfied employees are far more likely to leave an employer.

Bloomberg BNA estimates that employee turnover costs US business $11 billion a year, and turnover rates are likely to increase. A Dale Carnegie report claims turnover rates could rise to 65 percent in the near future. Engaged workers, however, are far more likely than even their happy counterparts to stay with an organization. In a recent survey, just 18 percent of engaged employees stated they would be likely to leave their employer in the next two years, as opposed to 24 percent for the satisfied coworkers and 40 percent for their disengaged coworkers.

Government is no stranger in the battle to retain top talent. For years, the beltway has been notorious as a revolving door with talent constantly moving in and out of government. With looming furloughs and pay freezes, agencies need to find ways to keep top talent more than ever.

3) Attracting millenials is unlike attracting their parents; engaging work is the priority.

A new generation of workers will require a new generation of tactics to attract top talent. Millenials are not necessarily looking for high pay in their first jobs, they’ve come to accept low pay or unpaid internships more readily than previous generations and so look for engaging work. Millenials are driven by jobs that give them purpose, part of the reason activism is so prevalent among that generation. And the government is in luck in this field. Mission oriented jobs like law enforcement and policy development are natural attractions for millennials, provided leaders are careful not to bury these positions in paperwork and bureaucracy.

4) Engaged workers are more likely to develop new skills and advance their careers.

And finally, once we’ve attracted, retained, and ensured employees are productive, it’s important to give them the opportunity to grow. Engaged workers seek out new learning opportunities on their own and invite new career opportunities. Satisfied or disengaged workers rarely seek out such responsibilities or opportunities and tend to retire-in-position (RIP). Agency managers and leaders are retiring en masse, and a new generation of leaders needs to begin moving through the ranks. Government can either push unwilling or partially willing individuals to these positions or invest in developing individuals who seek out responsibility.

Do you think employee engagement is worth the investment? Share your thoughts by taking Government Executive’s survey and tell us how engaged you are at work. Over 20,000 managers have responded, but we’re still looking to hear more voices. Help create the most complete picture of engagement in federal agencies ever assembled.

Click here to take GovExec’s five-minute survey on employee engagement.

Image via Tiut Vlad/

Clement Christensen is a research analyst at the Government Business Council. He holds an undergraduate degree in International Affairs and Anthropology from the George Washington University.

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