A recent Gallup poll shows that nearly three-fourths of U.S. workers are disengaged employees. You’ve no doubt seen the signs of employee disengagement at some time in your business. A worker barely puts in her eight hours. They don’t volunteer for anything, and generally keep to themselves. He doesn’t seem to want to expend any energy getting the job done well.
“Poor work product is a reliable barometer for employee disengagement, but good work might be a red herring,” explains 15Five, a provider of performance management tools , in their blogpost. “An employee may feel disconnected from your organization but might still perform because of a personal work ethic. Or maybe their job is too easy, and they are not being challenged. Don’t be fooled into thinking that employee engagement is high simply because the person is achieving their goals for work. In fact, the lack of challenge that manifests as quality work may be what is behind the disengagement.”
These disengaged employees feel a lack of interest in their role and day-to day-tasks. They use up their vacation time and sick time. You can view more statistics in the infographic farther below.
Related: Empowering managers to empower employees
What’s an employer to do?
What causes employee disengagement?
First, says Office Vibe, we need to understand that a disengaged employee doesn’t necessarily mean a bad employee. Instead, a number of events or problems have led them to this point. Office Vibe lists some culprits that lead employees to this point:
- Little feedback and direction from their manager
- Lack of socializing with peers on the team
- Poor understanding or connection to the core mission and values of the company
- Feeling underappreciated and unrecognized for their work
- An incomplete onboarding
- Feeling that they are not properly compensated for their work
- An uninspiring office environment
- Lack of proper communication between manager and employees
Related: Creating an effective employee education plan
How can employees be re-engaged? It starts with communication.
- Communicate constantly. Hold monthly one-on-ones to go over your employees’ work and provide concrete, constructive ways they can improve. Employees want this feedback because it allows them to make progress and achieve their goals.
- Be accessible, open and transparent. Be an open-door manager that’s respected, not feared. That means you need to constantly communicate with them. Speak – don’t preach – to your employees about more than just deadlines and work-related issues. Make a point to say good morning to your team, laugh and socialize, and give them positive feedback throughout the day. In a nutshell: If you want a friendly office environment, be friendly.
- Clarify roles and expectations. Your employees need to know exactly what is expected of them. Although this sounds obvious, lines often get blurred and create anxiety when a worker is unsure what his/her role should be. Provide clear goals and expectations.
Reexamine your role as their manager
- Keep an eye on workloads. Do your employees have too much work to finish in an unrealistic amount of time? Are they staying long hours, working on the weekends and neglecting a work-life balance? They need to know that you value them as individuals, not just workers. When you respect them and their work-life balance, they will respect you back in the form of quality work.
- Provide opportunity for advancement. In your one-on-ones, seek to understand your employees’ career goals. Insperity, an HR solutions company, says in their blog, “While millennials often enjoy change and fluidity in their roles, Gen Xers want to see the definitive steps it takes to reach the next opportunity. Meanwhile, boomers like to feel secure and stable in their current roles.
“For employees who express a desire for upward mobility, work with them to create a plan for career pathing. For example, you might say, ‘I know you want to be in [this position] in 18-24 months. How can we get you there? What does that require of you? And what does that require of me?’” explains Insperity blogger Abe Turner.
- Recognize their hard work. And do this as often as possible. It doesn’t require a lot of time or energy to let your employees know that you appreciate them. The return on this investment will be your employees’ confidence and gratitude, which will keep them engaged and working their hardest. Conversely, you can choose to neglect to commend your employees for a job well done, causing them to be less than inspired to produce great work.“Not everyone seeks to be rewarded or recognized in the same manner,” Insperity warns managers. “It’s about understanding what makes each individual feel appreciated.”
More ways to thwart employee disengagement
- Take time to have fun. All work and no play, day-after-day, makes for a very uninspiring job. You employ a team of humans, not robots, says Office Vibe. People need a boost of energy and a dose of fun to make the menial tasks seem less daunting. Organize off-site lunches to treat your team and encourage socializing or break up the day with office icebreakers for a good laugh.
- Create a welcoming office environment. Invite communication and creativity. Let people bring in photos to decorate their desks, play music softly and in general, display their individuality (within reason).
- Pay them fairly. Nowadays, it’s easy to find out what your peers are making online. Employees need to feel that they are properly compensated. If they don’t, the quality of their work will suffer.
- Add in benefits and perks. Does your company offer perks and benefits desired by your employees – enough that they are excited to come to work? Think beyond health benefits. Many vendors would love to offer your employees a group discount. Add a casual Friday. Allow flex time. There are many ways you can add spice to your team’s work week. It just takes a little thought and research.
View the infographic below, from OfficeVibe, to see how employee disengagement may be costing your company.
This article originally ran on Arrowhead’s corporate blog. It has been modified and updated to better reflect the needs of our tribal producers and their clients.