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Future of Work

The Keys to Creating a Better Employee Experience in the Workplace

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gallup-workplace-jon clifton-employees-management

As the CEO of global analytics and advice firm Gallup, Jon Clifton aims to help billions of workers around the world let their voices be heard. He shared his insights on the state of the modern workplace and what employers can do to meet the needs of today’s workforce.

Jon Clifton

CEO, Gallup

“The key to a well-run organization is finding, training, and retaining great managers.”

Why is employee experience so important right now?

Poor mental health in the United States has reached a concerning level, and the workplace may be part of the problem. Compared to 1994, Americans are 20% more likely to report experiencing significant daily stress, and self-assessments of mental health have reached new lows.

Life at work greatly influences overall well-being, especially since the average person spends between 83,000 and 115,000 hours working — the equivalent of nine to 13 years of their life. Currently, 40% of American workers believe work negatively impacts their mental health.

What can leaders do to improve the experience of their employees?

The biggest difference between a high-burnout organization and low-burnout organization often comes down to how well the place is managed. Employees at well-run organizations not only experience lower levels of stress and burnout, but also less anger and loneliness than workers at other organizations.

The key to a well-run organization is finding, training, and retaining great managers. One of Gallup’s most significant findings is that 70% of the variance in team engagement is attributable to the quality of the manager. Great management leads to engaged colleagues and teams, resulting in far less stress, anger, sadness, and worry.

In your opinion, why have employee happiness and engagement reached all-time lows?

While not at an all-time low, U.S. employee engagement is at its lowest point in 11 years. The timing of this decline suggests that the rise of post-pandemic hybrid and remote work is a likely factor.

Management practices haven’t fully adapted to the new virtual environment, and organizations have not invested enough in this area. Remarkably, 70% of managers have not received any formal training on leading hybrid teams.

What tools and innovations can companies utilize to help employees have better work experiences?

Executives often say training in generative AI will enhance work experiences. They’re right, but America, Inc. still hasn’t done enough learning and development for managers and employees to more effectively manage humans — specifically, by focusing on their strengths.

Society continues to judge people based on their weaknesses, with this tendency even more pronounced in the workplace. There is a significant decline in American workers who strongly agree with the statement, “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best.”

While organizations should invest in AI training, they should also focus on understanding and using each other’s strengths. This will help individuals learn more quickly and enhance team chemistry.

How can companies better support managers in a way that allows them to impact employee experience and engagement?

This is an excellent question. People often become managers due to their expertise in a specific area: sales, teaching, engineering, for example. However, expertise in one’s craft does not equate to proficiency in management.

Managers need training on how to have meaningful, two-way weekly conversations with each team member about performance, workload, and employee needs. This is what makes the difference.

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