Are Government Workers Engaged?


And what is it costing the taxpayers?


Click for AUDIO version.

The Gallup organization has been monitoring worker engagement for quite some time. The purpose is to let companies know how many employees are stimulated by their work, and how many are not. Business can then use this to make changes in their management style. For example, in the United States, which is considered the most “engaged” in the world, has a rate of 31.5%. Surprisingly, Germany, which is often considered a model of productivity, enjoys only a meager 16% engagement rate. A lot of this can be attributed to the tendency to micromanage the lives of the workers as opposed to empowering them.

While Gallup’s studies have primary focused on business, on July (7th), they produced a report on the “State of Local and State Government Workers’ Engagement in the U.S.,” a first.

The report studied employee engagement for state and local governments of 43 U.S. states, and from it found:
29% – of government workers are engaged in their jobs
71% – are not.
They also reported the states where engagement levels were the highest were primarily in the South, and the lowest were in the Northeast and Midwest. Interestingly, most of the South includes “Right to Work” states, and the Northeast and Midwest are under union control.

The 29% government engagement rate is just slightly lower than the 31.5% business rate.

Engaged employees move their workplaces forward. Disengaged workers do the opposite, costing their states millions of dollars, interfering with government goals, thereby causing taxpayer dissatisfaction. The big difference is government worker disengagement costs the U.S. economy roughly half a trillion dollars a year. In a related Gallup report, “Unhappy State, Local Government Workers Cost U.S. Billions,” they reported…

“Local governments’ annual budgets from Lincoln, Nebraska, to New York City total about $2.0 trillion, while state governments annually spend an estimated $1.7 trillion. Combined, state and local governments contribute 11% to U.S. GDP. Considering the size of their workforce and budgets, disengagement is costing state and local governments, conservatively, up to $100 billion — more than the entire spending budgets of most states.”

So, what can be done to improve engagement? Normally, I would suggest minimizing micromanagement by “managing from the bottom-up.” This means training your people accordingly, articulating project assignments carefully, and empowering the workers to solve projects on their own. To do so, a good project management system is required to plan, estimate, schedule, report and control projects. This means managers should manage more and supervise less. However, in government the problem may be more deeply seeded due to the obnoxious bureaucracies involved. In other words, too much red tape can stall progress regardless of the best intentions of the workers.

Keep one thing in mind, the Gallup study only considers state and local government. Imagine what federal worker disengagement is costing the country. Kowabunga!

If desired, you can download Gallup’s complete report (click HERE).

Keep the Faith!