Published on 2013/07/19

Postsecondary Graduates Disengaged at Work

Results of a new survey released this week suggest that bachelor degree holders are less likely to be engaged in their jobs than individuals who complete little to no college. This disengagement, though, can be solved through managerial training.

The report, “State of the American Workplace,” found that only 28.3 percent of graduates are engaged at work; compared to 29.6 percent of those who only completed some college and 32.7 percent of high school graduates.

“You would think that college graduates are way more engaged in careers than everybody else,” Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, told Inside Higher Ed. “There’s something about the process and the experience that is preventing graduates from getting to a place where they’re doing what they’re best at.”

According to Busteed, there are a few possible reasons for these findings. The first is that some students may end up in jobs for which they are overqualified. This could be due to students not having an understanding of the value of their degree and the type of work they could be doing. Another possible reason is that many students are fixated on educating themselves specifically for popular career paths for which there is little demand in today’s labor market, like law or investment banking.

“I think we’re kind of caught up in preconceived notions of what success should look like and it’s landing a lot of college graduates in not the right place,” Busteed told Inside Higher Ed.

This lack of engagement can have serious consequences for employers. According to Gallup, companies that have nine engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competitors. Conversely, companies that only have two engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2 percent lower earnings per share than competitors.

Gallup suggests that workplace leaders have the most significant role in an employee’s engagement, and this could be the key to solving the workplace engagement dilemma. The poll found that managers’ behavior and focus has a direct impact on employee engagement.

The report signals a need for employers to look at executive professional development and continuing education for managers as a mechanism to support and boost employee engagement, and revenues by extension.

“If every organization in America trained their managers to focus on employees’ strengths,” the report read, “the U.S. could easily double the number of engaged employees in the workplace.”

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