Feeling bored reduces motivation and the person, who also feels ashamed and partly responsible, feels that they can’t tell anyone for fear they will be judged as lazy, or their position made redundant. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Engaged and happy workers are a crucial ingredient for the success of a business. When employees feel good and care about their jobs, there’s a great chance the company will make more money, and there will be less people walking out the door.

Unfortunately, employee engagement levels in the UAE remain very low. According to Gallup, an analytics firm, about eight in ten UAE workers (85 per cent of the population) are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning the overwhelming majority are not psychologically committed to their jobs and are less likely to become more productive.

Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” report, which covers 155 countries, showed that only 16 per cent of employees across the UAE are connected to their work.

The UAE is not the only country facing an employee engagement issue. Workers’ lack of enthusiasm is a global concern and in the United States alone, it is costing the economy roughly half a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity.

The country is also doing better than many of its peers abroad in terms of the state of employee happiness, with global staff engagement averaging only 15 per cent.

According to Jim Harter, PhD, chief scientist of workplace management and well-being at Gallup, the UAE fares better than most of the rest of the world, as there are more engaged workers in this market than in Western Europe and in the major economies of the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and the Middle East and North Africa region.

However, something needs to be done to promote a happier, more motivated workforce. “UAE organisations must accelerate transforming their workplace cultures and reimagining performance management systems in step with changing expectations,” Harter told Gulf News.

A key reason there are a few engaged employees today is that the workplace is changing rapidly, especially with the entry of the millennials, and in the face of evolving technology and rise of the gig economy, in which employees work for short periods or on a temporary basis.

“Organisations need to keep up by creating cultures of high-development and performance management systems to match,” Harter said.

One of the things the UAE can do to promote workplace happiness is to continue its positive strategy of getting younger residents actively involved and excited about the workplace.

Businesses also need to do their part by transforming their workplace cultures and reimagining performance management systems, to be in step with changing expectations.

“With younger workers less engaged than older workers in UAE, organisations need to ensure that they are putting in place talented managers who see themselves more as a coach than a boss and are focused on giving their followers a connection to an organisation’s mission and purpose, with clear expectations, ongoing coaching and accountability,” Harter said.

What needs to be done

Several initiatives have recently been launched in the UAE to promote happiness among residents. In its report, Gallup offers some advice on how organisations can further promote such a cause.

The company has created a theoretical model for creating meaningful change in UAE companies, and achieve the national happiness agenda.

In order to boost engagement, Gallup said organisations must work to improve employee perceptions in each of the following areas:

Engagement: the sense of emotional attachment to one’s work that supports high levels of motivation and productivity

Trust: feelings of security and confidence in one’s leadership, managers and co-workers that help employees feel good about their relationships at work, and the idea that they are valued members of a cohesive team

Positivity: a sense of optimism based on employees’ identification with the mission of their organisation, as well as their opportunity to focus on  and develop their strengths

Integration: a wider role of the workplace toward employee well-being, work-life balance and community involvement

"Employees who have positive perceptions in each of these areas, according to the theory, are more likely to see their work as a calling rather than just a job, and the resulting sense of purpose makes them more optimistic about their lives overall, Gallup advised.

Managers are also in a position to have a powerful impact on each of the above areas or components, especially since research shows that those who manage employees are responsible for at least 70 per cent of their staff’s engagement.

“Yet, managers are often promoted due to their previous success in a non-managerial role or simply due to having experience in the particular organisation, agency or field of expertise. Instead, organisations should select managers based on their inherent talent for managing – including their ability to foster positive relationships with their team members while keeping them motivated and focused on outcomes that are both meaningful and attainable.”