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U.S. Managers Boast Best Work Engagement

U.S. Managers Boast Best Work Engagement

by Daniela Yu, Jim Harter and Sangeeta Agrawal

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thirty-six percent of managers and executives were "Engaged" in their jobs in 2012 -- meaning they are deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work and actively contributing to their organization. This is the highest level of worker engagement across 12 different occupation types and is the most improved from the 2009 economic downturn -- up 10 percentage points. Manufacturing and transportation workers are the least engaged in their jobs, as they were in 2009. Service workers are the only group to see their engagement decline in 2012 compared with 2009, down three points.

Employee Engagement Changes From 2009 to 2012 by Occupation

The data were collected as part of 2012 Gallup Daily tracking, and are based on interviews with 151,284 U.S. workers. Gallup's Employee Engagement Index is based on worker responses to 12 actionable workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety, and profit. Engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged may be satisfied but are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are less likely to put in discretionary effort. The Actively Disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace and jeopardize their teams' performance.

Nationwide, 30% of employees are Engaged, similar to the 28% who were in 2009. Meanwhile, nearly one in five (18%) workers are Actively Disengaged," while the majority are simply Not Engaged.

Among occupation groups, managers' and executives' engagement is by far the most improved from 2009, although the reason for this is not clear. It is possible that, amid tough economic times, managers and executives are increasingly motivated to drive a sense of purpose in their organizations. It is also possible that the optimism of leaders and managers might precede that of other groups, as the economy rebounds. Or managers may have a better sense of control during a down economy, while other workers may feel more vulnerable.

Service workers are in a particularly vulnerable industry that is tightly tied to whether Americans are spending. U.S. consumer spending fell sharply in 2009 and generally remained flat until showing some upward momentum late last year. The spending downturn unavoidably affects the service industry as Americans spend less on things such as eating out and vacations. This lack of business growth opportunity negatively affects the personal growth opportunities of service workers. In addition, some people are employed in the service sector out of necessity due to its low entry barriers and they cannot fully use their talents and qualifications in these jobs. And, analysis of the individual items that constitute workers' engagement scores reveals that service workers are now less likely to think their opinions count at work, which may be related the stressors facing their industry.

Workplace Hiring Picture May Factor In to Mangers' Increased Engagement

Gallup has previously found that engaged employees are far more likely to report hiring in their workplace than are others -- and this appears to be at least partly related to the higher level of engagement among managers and executives. The large increase in managers' engagement is positively correlated to their improved view of the hiring situation at work. Forty percent of managers in 2012 indicate their companies are hiring and expanding the size of their workforce, up from 26% in 2009. Those figures compare with 35% hiring among all workers in 2012, and 24% in 2009.

Based on what you know or have seen, would you say that, in general, your company or employer is ... (hiring, not changing, firing workers)?

Transportation, Manufacturing Workers Most Likely to be Actively Disengaged

Along with managers and executives, physicians, nurses, and teachers are the most likely to be Engaged in their jobs. Transportation and manufacturing or production workers are the least likely to be Engaged and most likely to be Actively Disengaged -- at 28% and 26%, respectively.

Employee Engagement by Occupation in 2012

These findings generally mirror what Gallup finds in terms of the well-being of these groups -- highlighting the positive linkage between engagement and well-being. Transportation and manufacturing workers have the worst well-being among all occupations, while professionals including physicians, nurses, and teachers have among the highest.


There is a proven strong relationship between employees' workplace engagement and their respective companies' overall performance. Gallup's national engagement data for the past four years reveal that about one in three workers are Engaged in their jobs, meaning businesses in the U.S. -- and in turn, the U.S. economy as a whole -- are not maximizing their workforces. And, even though there is variation in engagement by occupation, there is a great deal of opportunity to improve workplace engagement in all jobs. Still, the finding that managers and executives in the U.S. are more engaged now than in 2009 could be a very promising sign for U.S. businesses and the economy.

Gallup research has consistently shown the critical role of managers in engaging their team members. For example, voluntary turnover in most cases can be attributed to the employee's direct manager. Gallup research also shows managers who are directly supervised by highly engaged executive teams are more likely to be engaged than managers who are supervised by disengaged executive teams. And, frontline employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are more likely to be engaged than those supervised by disengaged managers.

Increasing the number of engaged leaders and managers in the U.S. workforce is more likely to inject hope and stability into their teams. This would very likely result in improved engagement and productivity in the workforce overall and operational excellence in organizations. Further, as more leaders and managers now say they are expanding rather than reducing their workforces, the confidence of the general workforce may increase in the near future.

Gallup will release in-depth findings on U.S. engagement in the forthcoming State of the American Workforce report.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2012, with a random sample of 151,284 U.S. workers, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of workers, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cellphone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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