Solving the Employee Engagement Crisis

February 26, 2016
Bethany Dame, Vice President, Client Relations

Whether voters are following #TrumpMAGA2016 or falling into the #FeeltheBern camp this election year, one thing is true: the economy is viewed as the single most important issue facing our country. Despite the economy being at the top of voters’ minds when they head to the polls, only 32% of U.S. employees feel engaged in their jobs and workplaces. Worldwide the numbers are worse, with only 13% of employees engaged.

It’s clear the world is experiencing an “employee engagement crisis” and is in need of a solution. So how do employers, such as manufacturers, bridge the divide between the importance employees, as voters, rightly place on a more prosperous economy, and their commitment to their immediate job?

For those of us in the public affairs world, the solution to addressing the employee engagement crisis seems obvious: civic engagement. Civic engagement, at its core, is about “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities, and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference…through both political and non-political processes.” For manufacturing employers, involving employees in civic engagement starts with sharing information and building employees’ knowledge of the economic issues impacting manufacturers, then connecting the dots between those issues and what they specifically mean for employees’ jobs, workplaces and communities.

Issue education isn’t enough to motivate employees to become involved in civic engagement though. It’s up to employers to build a culture of civic-oriented communication that provides regular avenues for employees to learn and engage on those issues, such as encouraging employees to register and vote on Election Day, asking them to share information on how an issue impacts their company and community through social media, or providing them with opportunities to write to their elected officials on issues important to their job. These are just a few ideas, among a long list, for building an effective civic engagement program that allows employees to participate in their workplace and communities on the very issue they care about at the polls: the economy.

Take Caterpillar’s Government Affairs website as an online example of a manufacturer encouraging employee civic engagement. Caterpillar not only offers its employees quick facts on issues impacting their business and their employees’ jobs, but the company goes one step further by giving employees an opportunity to contact their legislators on issues that are currently up for consideration, and providing them with information on how and when to register and vote.

Worried that encouraging employee civic engagement is taking things a step too far beyond the traditional means used to gauge employee engagement issues? Consider this. In a 2015 Public Affairs Council Pulse Survey of 1,601 individuals to gauge views on issues related to business, government and society, respondents were asked what they would do if they were CEO of a company concerned with government laws and regulations. The response: 67% said that, if they were CEO, they would ask employees to contact their legislators about laws and regulations that impact them as employees. The message is clear. If employees ran the company, they would be asking you to get engaged civically, so why aren’t you asking them?

The time has never been better for employee civic engagement on issues like taxes, trade, healthcare, and the many other challenges impacting the economic stability of manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad. It’s up to manufacturers and other employers to do their part in alleviating the “employee engagement crisis” by plugging employees into these crucial conversations addressing such economic hurdles. A brighter future is possible, and it all starts with employees (the very people who comprise the heart of American businesses) actively talking about the issues affecting their jobs, companies, and communities.

Bethany Dame is a Vice President at DDC Public Affairs, where she is a senior member of the firm’s Manufacturing & Industrials practice group.

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