However, in recent years, employee disengagement has been ranking high on that list.
My friend recently left her job in a bank because she didn’t feel connected to management or feel a sense of purpose in her role.
Gallup's 2023 State of the Workplace report found that employees are experiencing high rates of disengagement and many workers are quiet quitting, which is when they psychologically disengage from their jobs.
They show up to work every day, log in to their computers, but are at a loss when it comes to their job purpose and don’t feel connected with other employees.
When quiet quitting is combined with actively disengaged employees, it costs the global economy $8.8 trillion, or 9 per cent of the global gross domestic product, the Gallup report found.
Engagement at work and how employees relate to co-workers and management has 3.8 times as much influence on their stress levels as work location does, whether they work on-site or remotely.
As part of the study, Gallup conducted a survey in which it asked respondents what they would change to make their place of employment great. About 41 per cent said they would like to improve engagement and culture.
Employee engagement has benefits beyond happiness. Various studies reveal how it can impact innovation, productivity and customer service. In fact, engaged employees are good for business.
Companies with highly engaged employees earned 13 per cent greater returns for shareholders. Engaged employees also miss 20 per cent fewer days of work.
On the flip side, Gallup found that a disengaged employee costs an organisation 34 per cent of its annual income, or $3,400 for every $10,000.
Research by global consultancy McKinsey found that 70 per cent of employees believe their sense of purpose is defined by their jobs.
Changing a work culture that has high levels of disengagement is no easy feat, but we could work towards it by implementing simple steps.
Organisations should rethink company purpose and how employees could meaningfully connect to their work.
They could start by ensuring that staff are aware of the organisation’s short-term and long-term goals.
It may sound simple, but I have found that scheduling a weekly meeting to discuss overall progress and addressing my team members’ concerns positively impact their performance.
An employee's personal growth within an organisation should also be closely monitored and support provided to help them learn and grow in the areas where they feel they can contribute.
Treating employees like family can also lead to positive results. Employees who are supported to do better in their personal lives will, ultimately, do better at work.
Depending on the line of business, employers can consider flexible and remote work options, and provide mental health well-being services as well as facilities at work to help them perform better and, ultimately, thrive.
Activities that help employees connect with each other and with management should also be embedded within workplace culture – and not feel forced.
This could be anything from a bi-weekly casual lunch, paid-for activities and retreats for employees.
It’s important to involve employees when building a workplace culture, so ask them what they think can be done to make the office a happier place. Keep monitoring this and build on it.
Making an effort to enhance employee engagement will ensure you positively impact their roles – and your business will thank you for it.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications adviser based in Abu Dhabi.