Unhappy Employees? Why That Is – And What To Do About It

You’ve heard of the Great Resignation, but have you heard of the Great Gloom? This term is coined by BambooHR, a human resources cloud platform, which recently released a report that found employees are more unhappy now than they were at the start of 2020. The report gathered data from 57,000 unique employees across 1,600 small and medium-sized organizations within the U.S. and internationally between January 2020 and June 2023. 

So, are employees really unhappy? If so, why is that? Why does it matter, and what can employers do about it? These are all important questions – and ones our employee engagement experts at IRI can help you tackle. 

The Current Employee Landscape 

As an employer, you’ve likely faced your fair share of trials these last few years, from supply chain disruptions to recruitment and retention challenges, to name a few. But it’s important to remember that your employees have also witnessed a wide range of hardships. For four years, they’ve been subjected to an unstable and unpredictable economy, which has left many subject to mass layoffs, high inflation, and labor strikes. Not to mention the lasting effects of COVID-19, which have left many employees with a lack of connection as they continue to operate in a fully remote or hybrid work environment, and the countless other stressful events employees absorb through the 24-hour news cycle and multiple social channels that draw a lot of attention to negative elements happening all around them.   

Because of all these factors, it’s no surprise that BambooHR’s report shows employee happiness has declined at a rate 10 times faster than the previous three years. Employees are experiencing a growing sense of unease and frustration, leading to a pessimistic and apathetic attitude that can seep into their workday and affect their productivity and overall happiness. This, in turn, can affect your organization’s employee engagement.

Remember: engagement, from the employee perspective, means feeling valued and respected. Engaged employees know that management wants their input and values their role in the organization. If they don’t feel this, you could very well be facing bigger problems, like low company morale and toxic working conditions, down the road.  

Actionable Steps to Boost Employee Engagement 

Based on these findings and observations, it is safe to assume your employees may be facing a wave of unhappiness and discontentment, but there are steps you can take to uplevel your employee engagement and boost employees’ morale.  

Take healthcare employees, for example. BambooHR’s report showed that healthcare employees are the most unhappy, having seen positive sentiment drop by 32% from June 2020 to June 2023. This is an important finding because in today’s highly competitive healthcare landscape, where health system leaders are challenged to achieve both clinical and operational excellence, cultivating a decidedly engaged workforce is vital.

The same is true elsewhere too, which is why IRI has a team of experts dedicated to helping improve employee engagement to measurably boost organizational success. When looking to integrate or increase engagement across your organization, our teams at IRI start with a thorough assessment of your organization’s culture with a focus on engagement practices that demonstrate how you value your employees’ voice.

The assessment begins by clarifying how your organization defines engagement, as well as how it’s currently assessed. It includes collecting data on how employees feel or think about their relationship with their team, their manager, executive leadership, and the organization as a place to work. We want to help you understand your employees emotional responses as well as the behaviors that contribute to them. Do your employees believe they are valued by the way their leaders hear and respond to their voice, or have they become apathetic because they don’t believe they have a voice in anything that really matters?

With our process, you can take real-time data and cut it multiple ways to best understand and take action. You will figure out the answers to these questions:

  • In which parts of your organization are employees engaged and believe their voice matters, and why?
  • Where are your employees feeling disconnected and why?
  • What internal and external issues are interfering with engagement and employee voice?
  • What issues can be addressed quickly as “low hanging fruit” and made visible across the organization so employees know that they are not just being heard, but more importantly being taken seriously?
  • What issues are worth further research or exploration to determine the extent to which they can be partially addressed or addressed at a later time when conditions change – and how will your employees know when and what is happening?
  • What issues are impossible to address now due to circumstances beyond your control, and how might the people most impacted manage unintended consequences – and how will your organization know?

With answers to these and many other questions, we are able to help you develop an enterprise-wide engagement strategy that helps your employees know they have a voice and that their voice matters. Plus, this strategy will align with and support operational, financial, customer relations, and marketing initiatives. Because we agree with Bamboo HR - employees aren’t experiencing highs or lows. Instead, they are expressing a sense of resignation and apathy, which, when not addressed swiftly and properly, can lead to unwanted, long-term problems. And it’s our goal to make sure that doesn’t happen.

At IRI, we help organizations maximize their performance by incorporating employee engagement into their overall business strategy. This includes our support in the development of Employee Advisory Groups to improve employee communication. We believe every business is different, and each requires its own holistic and customized approach to communications and employee engagement. Whether you need an internal communications or engagement assessment, guidance in developing your internal communications or engagement strategy or social media strategy, digital media intelligence, crisis communications services, media relations, or media training, we have expert communications and engagement consultants who can quickly provide a specialized solution. Contact us today to discuss the next steps, give us a call at (313) 965-0350.