The way we work doesn’t work, anymore

Lessons from the Gallup State of the American Workplace 2017

Gallup has released its 2017 State of the American Workplace, and the first words, from Jim Clifton, Gallup's Chair and CEO, takes a very strong stand:

The very practice of management no longer works.

The old ways --- annual reviews, forced rankings, outdated competencies --- no longer achieve the intended results.

He goes on to make a list of recommendations that seem more of a grab bag than a well-focused manifesto, but I can't disagree at all with the core insight:the way we work doesn't work, anymore.

Turns out that employees have little faith in their leadership:

  • 22% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization.

  • 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.

  • 13% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.

Ready to move on

A much higher number of workers are ready to find a new place to work, Gallup reports:

Americans have increasingly positive perceptions of the job market and what it offers. In 2012, an average of 19% of people said it was a good time to find a quality job. For the first three quarters of 2016, an average of 42% said the same. Among those in the labor force (employed, unemployed or looking for work), the number was even higher at 47%.

And increasing levels of disengagement spells a negative trend for employers:

The more disconnected employees feel, the greater their readiness to job hop.While 37% of engaged employees are looking for jobs or watching for opportunities, higher numbers of not-engaged and actively disengaged employees are doing the same (56% and 73%, respectively). Actively disengaged employees are almost twice as likely as engaged employees to seek new jobs.

The urge for meaning

People want their work to count for something more than just a paycheck, but companies still don't get it.

Organizations should play up their brand and reputation beyond a few paragraphs on their "about us" webpage. They need to demonstrate online through easily accessible stories and robust content how they honor these elements. Organizations can share media coverage, customer and employee testimonials, and information about awards they have received. They also can showcase on their website, social media channels and intranet their community involvement. Candidates and employees should have a clear idea of what an organization stands for and how its brand and reputation connect to an authentic employee experience.

Career development more important than ever

It comes as no surprise that Millennials are the cohort most interested in career development:

Millennials are more likely than both Gen Xers and baby boomers to say a job that accelerates their professional or career development is "very important" to them (45% of millennials vs. 31% of Gen Xers and 18% of baby boomers).

Remote working is on the rise

Since 2013, the percentage of employees 'working remotely in some capacity' has grown from 39% to 43%, and those working offsite spend more time offsite, too.

And what about the engagement of remote workers?

In 2012, Gallup found that employees who worked remotely experienced higher engagement than those who never worked remotely, but only up to a point. Those who worked remotely less than 20% of the time had higher levels of engagement, but if the time went up the results regressed to the mean.

In 2017, times have changed:

all employees who spend at least some (but not all) of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who don't ever work remotely.

And those that work remotely 60%-80% of the time say they are more likely to strongly agree that working remotely makes the more productive.

Much more in the report

The report makes for fascinating reading, and I have only touched on a handful of the findings. I hope to interview some on in Gallup about the findings related to Matrixed Teams, and the catastrophic failure of American management to motivate employees:

only 21% strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.


  • Question or comment? (Can be private, or public: your choice. I occasionally publish public comments or questions.)

  • If you haven't already, you might fill out this reader profile form. It takes only a few minutes, and is really helpful for me.

  • Follow me on Twitter.

  • More media, politics, and social commentary on stoweboyd.com, including bio.