The difference in work quality between engaged and disengaged employees is not trivial --one study found 17 percent greater productivity 41 percent less absenteeism, 10 percent more customer satisfaction, and 40 percent fewer defects in work products when comparing the top and bottom quartiles of employee engagement.
Employee engagement is the degree to which employees are passionate about and committed to their jobs and the organization. If staff members are fully engaged in their jobs, they put in extra effort needed to provide the best services possible. If they are disengaged they put in the bare minimum effort necessary to satisfy their job description or, at worst, actively seek to undermine the organization.
GFOA's most recent research report, "Realizing the Best of Both Worlds: An Engaged Workforce and More Satisfied Citizens," focuses on an issue GFOA members identified as a high priority, reflecting the challenges governments face in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. The report describes the challenges organizations face when employees are not engaged and provides strategies to help governments improve.
Research from Gallup has shown that approximately 70 percent of state and local government employees are not engaged in their jobs. Further, 17 percent are "actively disengaged" and are sabotaging the good work of their colleagues. Though this is not much different from the degree of engagement found in private companies, the consequences could be more severe, given the critical role public services can play in a community.
What's missing from the statistics above is how it feels to be disengaged and how employees get there. Consider this from Maria Blanco, who works in a municipal finance department:
"I graduated from college during the onset of the Great Recession and considered myself very lucky to have landed a permanent, full-time government job in the...