Employee disengagement can cause a rash of problems in your organization. Here’s how to spot the issues and start offering solutions.
Disengaged workforces cause low retention, poor productivity, and ultimately hurt your bottom line.
Gallup research found that companies with a highly engaged workplace are 22 percent more profitable, and disengaged workers cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year.
Whether you’re a CEO, senior executive, or line manager, addressing the issue of disengagement is key to the success of your team and organization.
Before working to fix disengagement in your organization, it’s important to identify where the disengagement is coming from in the first place.
While the issue may be unique to your business and may be temporary, odds are the reasons for disengagement are systemic and quite common in many workplaces.
5 Signs of Widespread Employee Disengagement
- Your retention rates are poor.
Today, employees should not be expected to remain at the same organization for their entire career. However, a sign of a bigger problem could be an uptick in employees leaving your organization year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter.
- Exit survey data tells you that you have a problem.
When employees do leave your organization, does your HR team ask them why? Research has proven that employees leave their roles often due to issues besides compensation.
For example, does your workplace reward managers who lead with a culture of fear and fail to recognize diligent/loyal/etc. employees for their work?
- Your absenteeism numbers are high.
Employees get sick, and no one wants a colleague to come to the office with an infectious disease. But sometimes employees start taking sick days because the stress of the workplace is too much. They may make excuses to avoid coming into work over being a productive part of a team.
- Your profitability is down.
There are many reasons profitability can decrease, and not all of them have to do with a disengaged workforce. One of the most common symptoms of disengagement across an organization over time is poor output from the entire business.
Engaged employees work harder, are often willing to take risks, are more innovative, and are less fearful of offering insights into how to fix problems within the organization.
- Employee engagement poll results are dropping.
If you use an employee survey or pulse polling tool, you can watch your employee engagement score over time. By analyzing this data, you can get ahead of mass migration out of your company by identifying teams and managers with disengaged employees.
- Think Small to Magnify Employee Happiness
- Fixing engagement across an organization is no small task, but small steps to increase participation can go a long way. Poor management that is void of regular feedback, a lack of recognition in the workplace, and a missing sense of clarity in goals and measures of success can cause disengagement.
Step 1: Solve for Poor Management (format each step differently from normal subheadings, like the one above)
Even your worst managers may strive to be good managers, they just don’t know what they may be doing wrong. Many managers are strong individual contributors who are promoted into management roles, given a small amount of training—or none whatsoever—and are now in charge of leading a team.
This alone can be catastrophic to your workforce’s overall engagement levels.
Training your managers on how to offer effective, ongoing feedback can turn a disengaged workforce into one that is filled with satisfied and productive employees. The worst thing a manager can do is wait until an annual review to share all of their feedback from the earlier year: which is, at best, what they remember due to recency biases.
By providing a system or tool that can help managers save feedback in real time and share with employees at weekly one-on-ones and quarterly check-ins, managers have a unique opportunity to flex the muscle of good management every day. Offering feedback training can also go a long way in addressing widespread challenges with poor management.
Step 2: Build a Culture of Recognition
One of the most common reasons workers feel disengaged is because their contributions go unrecognized.
While there will always be a handful of employees who boast about their accomplishments every chance they get, most workers are going out of their way to help colleagues. Often, these actions are unnoticed by managers, who either do not provide feedback at all or who tend to only give constructive feedback around failures and challenges. This, in turn, naturally leads to disengagement.
Offering a real-time feedback system with peer recognition is one small step you can take to increase peer collaboration and help ensure that others know about modest but significant employee contributions.
By creating a culture of recognition in your organization, employees are more likely to feel engaged and work together to obtain success.
Step 3: Create Goal Alignment
Employees who are not aligned with management on their goals are much more likely to be disengaged. If you set goals once a year and forget about them, this is a surefire way to stifle engagement.
Without this alignment, employees may unknowingly work hard on the wrong goals or simply on the right goals that have shifted. Even if they do not get in trouble over working on these initiatives, they could feel disengaged by putting so much effort into “bridge-to-nowhere” projects.
To solve this, make sure that your managers and your employees are connecting at least quarterly on their goals. Ensure that goals are not impossible to meet, but, instead, trust your employees to set realistic goals and stretch goals, and then focus on management performing as coaches to their employees to help them achieve these goals.
At the end of the quarter, have a company-wide check-in where a manager reviews progress and discusses what is preventing the employee from achieving their goals. At the check-in, employees and managers can also adjust goals for the next three months, and ensure alignment. This creates a very clear directive for success and gives each employee a fair opportunity to succeed.
By implementing these initiatives in your organization, you can combat disengagement issues where and when they start.
Many organizations today are replacing the traditional annual review with performance management processes focused on quarterly check-ins, goal management, and regular, ongoing feedback between manager and employee and peer-to-peer.
Take these small steps to create a culture of continuous feedback, managers who coach, and goal alignment both top down and bottom up. You will drive a positive shift in employee engagement, resulting in less turnover, higher productivity, and ultimately a more successful bottom line.
Rajeev Behera is the CEO of the performance-management startup Reflektive, which has raised more than $17 million in funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, and has a client roster of over 200 customers including Protective Life, Pinterest, Nutanix, MEC, and Jawbone.
Bill Fotsch says
Industry leaders like Southwest Airlines, Capital One and BHP Billiton, (clients of mine), and hundreds of private companies treat their employees like trusted business partners, enabling them to make more money for their company and themselves. They consistently see both profits and engagement soar. This Forbes article provides more background: https://www.forbes.com/sites/fotschcase/2016/05/31/engage-your-employees-in-making-money/