Alabama Leads US States in Employee Engagement

Amy Adkins, Jim Harter

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Alabama has the highest percentage of engaged workers in the U.S., at 37%. Delaware, Kentucky and Louisiana follow closely, at 36%. Nine states have 35% employee engagement.

States With Highest Engagement, 2015-2016
  Engaged workers
Alabama 37
Delaware 36
Kentucky 36
Louisiana 36
Arkansas 35
Arizona 35
Florida 35
Hawaii 35
Maine 35
Mississippi 35
Oklahoma 35
Tennessee 35
Texas 35
Gallup, January 2015-October 2016

At the opposite end of the engagement spectrum, slightly more than one in five workers in West Virginia (21%) are actively disengaged, as are 19% of employees in Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania.

States With Highest Active Disengagement, 2015-2016
  Actively disengaged workers
West Virginia 21
Nevada 19
New Mexico 19
New York 19
Pennsylvania 19
Gallup, January 2015-October 2016

Gallup identifies workers as engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged based on their responses to items that assess key workplace elements found to predict important business outcomes.

  • Engaged: Employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological "owners," drive performance and innovation, and move the organization forward.

  • Not engaged: Employees are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they're putting time -- but not energy or passion -- into their work.

  • Actively disengaged: Employees aren't just unhappy at work -- they are resentful that their needs aren't being met and are acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

The 2015-2016 employee engagement estimates across states are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted January 2015-October 2016, including 151,462 interviews with U.S. adults, aged 18 and older. As reported in the State of the American Workplace report, 33% of U.S. employees in 2016 were engaged, 51% were not engaged and 16% were actively disengaged.

Autonomy and Economics Can Influence Engagement

When Gallup examines the patterns of engagement across the 50 states, highly engaged states tend to have greater proportions of workers who are:

  • self-employed on a full-time basis

  • high school graduates, but not college graduates

  • employed in blue-collar roles in industries such as transportation, installation and repair, and farming and fishing

It is possible workers in states with lower engagement and higher percentages of college graduates are not in jobs that fit their formal training. The cumulative data appear to connect higher levels of engagement with small businesses and autonomy.

There is also a link between engagement and job market conditions. States with higher percentages of actively disengaged employees have higher unemployment rates than do those with lower percentages of employees who are actively disengaged. The five states where at least 19% of workers are actively disengaged average 7.2% unemployment.

In contrast, the five states where 13% to 14% of workers are actively disengaged average 4.6% unemployment. Employees in states with higher percentages of actively disengaged workers may find it more difficult to locate the type of work they want. Similarly, organizations in these states may not be able to increase their hiring and, as such, do not believe they have an incentive to create a differentiated workplace that can compete effectively for new talent.

On the positive end of the engagement scale, states with the highest percentages of engaged employees have slightly higher proportions of full-time, self-employed workers, compared with states with 30% or fewer engaged workers (9% full-time, self-employed employees vs. 7% full-time, self-employed employees, respectively). This difference likely reflects smaller organizations in the states with higher engagement. Gallup finds smaller organizations tend to have a higher percentage of engaged employees.

Bottom Line

Many factors influence engagement and active disengagement in the workplace. Company size, employment status and economic conditions can all play a part in how employees feel about their jobs and organizations, as can occupation, tenure and education level. However, Gallup finds that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.

Organizations must ensure they are hiring and promoting the right people into management roles and giving these individuals the training, support and direction they need to succeed. Leaders have to address managers' engagement needs in the same way they expect managers to address the engagement needs of their employees.