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Where They’re All There

A new report from Gallup finds a new part of the world has displaced the United States and Canada as the region with the most engaged employees in the world — but there are caveats.

Led by India, South Asia demonstrates the highest level of employee engagement in the world according to a new Gallup report.

Photo: Getty Images

If you don’t mind a dose of vexation alongside dedication, South Asia could be the place for you.

That’s one finding in the State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report released by D.C.-based Gallup this week.

All maps and charts courtesy of Gallup

“South Asia now ranks as the most engaged region in the world, nudging the U.S. and Canada out of the top spot they’ve held for quite some time,” said Heather Barrett, managing consultant at Gallup specializing in organizational culture, change management and employee experience. “On the flip side, while South Asia took the No. 1 spot in employee engagement, it also took the No. 1 spot in daily anger. This trend was similar to what we saw in the U.S. and Canada. While these regions are home to some of the most engaged employees in the world, they’re also home to some of the most stressed workers.”

South Asia also ranks the lowest in the world in terms of well-being, she pointed out during a webinar yesterday. “We know from our research that negative emotions and poor well-beiing ultimately carry over into work performance. So seeing these trends together really underscores the need for organizations to stay mindful not only of the needs of their people from a working perspective, but also the influence they have on those within their ranks and organizations more holistically, as people.”

The 99-page report includes regional analysis and is the latest edition of the largest ongoing study of the employee experience in the world, having launched in 2005 and covering 160 countries. The report also examines other areas such as job climate: Eighty-one percent of Australians and New Zealanders think now is a great time to find a job. Meanwhile, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest turnover risk, as 70% of responding employees said they were watching for or actively seeking a new job.


Barrett’s Germany-based colleague Pa M. K. Sinyan, managing partner at Gallup overseeing teams across the EMEA region, says another area of concern is Europe, which registers the lowest level of engagement of any world region. Most concerning of all, however, is the level of “quiet quitting.” Combined with its more destructive cousin “loud quitting,” six in 10 of us are not going the extra mile or feeling driven, he said. Why does it matter?

Pa says the Gallup team has studied multiple key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the impact of employee engagement on performance. The figure they’ve arrived at is $8.8 trillion in opportunity costs — 9% of global GDP — as a result of employee disengagement. What could make it better? Sure, pay and benefits were cited by 23% of quiet quitters surveyed. But 41% cited company culture and workplace experiences. “That means there is a lot we can do to change how people experience work and tap into that 59% who are quiet quitting,” Pa said.

The survey also evaluated employee perspectives on remote, hybrid and in-office workspace strategies, and found a compelling result: It’s not the location that matters. It’s buy-in and culture. The survey found that engagement and the actual work experience has 3.8 times as much influence on stress as work location.

“Ultimately, optimizing any work location comes down to creating an engaging employee experience,” Barrett said. “Spend as much energy on that experience as on working location.”

“Some of the conversations we’re having about the workplace are a distraction with a focus on symptoms rather than the actual problem,” Pa added, noting the current ongoing discussion in Germany about a potential four-day work week, in addition to the remote work vs. return to office debate. “How engaged you are is the strongest predictor,” he said. “There are people who work four days and hate going to work and people working seven days and love going to work.”

The global average is about one engaged employee for every one actively disengaged employee. For this year’s Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award (GEWA) winners, that ratio is 18 to one, as they boast a collective engagement rate of 72%. Who are those winners? Gallup in March announced the 57 organizations honored with the Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award, including 17-time winner ABC Supply, 11-time winner DTE Energy, 10-time winner Indus Towers and nine-time winner Regions Bank. Interviews with those leaders found three traits:

“Engagement is foundational to their organization’s culture.”
“These organizations navigate hybrid work arrangements with transparency.”
“Leadership understands and taps into the power of meaningful conversations to deepen relationships.”

Gallup noted in March that “by continuing to invest in engagement as a cultural business strategy, the 2023 GEWA winners have a leg up on their competitors in the war for talent. In a world of increased chaos, they have brought clarity and purpose, making their cultures resilient.” — Adam Bruns