Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with disengaged employees, part of Motivating and Engaging Employees.
- In years past, we often talked about employee satisfaction. Which concerns how positive, overall, someone feels about their job. Eventually we realized it's possible to be satisfied and unproductive. As a result, our focus has shifted to Employee Engagement. Which refers to an employees involvement with, commitment to, and satisfaction with work. Which overall might be positive or negative. Engagement is more than a measure of satisfaction. It also encompasses inherent interest in and commitment to the role.
Thus it's very unlikely someone would be engaged, and yet unproductive. One of the most well known research groups to address employee engagement, is the Gallup Organization. Their work suggests three distinct groups, in terms of levels of engagement. Engaged, Not engaged, and Actively disengaged. The Engaged employees are the strongest employees. They actively use their talents and build positive and productive, professional relationships. Not only do they perform in their current roles at consistently high levels. But they also embrace change and innovation to help move the organization forward.
In the middle category, are the employees labeled as Not engaged. They're on the fence and aren't really positive or negative about the company. They tend to be a little more disconnected and less committed. Most of the time their work meets standards but they're not superstars. Finally, we have the fun folks in the Actively disengaged group. They're not happy at work and they often act on that unhappiness. They do this by working slowly and sometimes by using words and behaviors to tear down the work of more engaged employees.
They often actively close themselves off from others who wish to influence them to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. While it's true that an engaged employee can occasionally be negative, that's fairly rare. For the disengaged employee, being negative is a full-time job. Here's why you should care. Lots of research suggests that disengaged employees are common. Half or more of employees report that they're not engaged. And as many as 20% say they are Actively disengaged.
And that disengagement costs you a ton of money. Gallup, for example, estimates that Actively disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 Billion per year in lost productivity. The research is clear. The number one factor that influences engagement is the employees relationship with their immediate supervisor. This means that the long-term solution for higher employee engagement, is to increase the average quality of the leaders in your organization.
So now you know the truth. Sometimes employees are disengaged for reasons that have to do with them. Maybe that's a comment about the imperfect nature of your hiring and selection processes. Other times, Active disengagement is a reflection of disconnected or low quality management. If you're serious about building better leaders, consider these tactics. Conduct a Leadership audit. Look at how you promote people and whether, or not, they're prepared to be leaders. Look at the number of hours, the amount of dollars, and the different methods you're using to develop your leaders.
Contact relevant industry associations or consultants and gather benchmark data to see where you stand relative to peer organizations. It might be the case that you've not been systematic enough in your efforts or that you've simply under-invested in training great leaders. Next, consider using a reverse accountability program. A moment ago, I mentioned benchmark data from outside the organization. Well you want to look internally as well. What better source for feedback about your leadership team than the people being led.
Whereas we often see higher level leaders working to hold lower level leaders accountable, reverse accountability is about lower level employees having the opportunity to hold their direct leaders accountable. Using various easy to find and low-cost technology tools, the voice of the employees can be captured, so that the entire leadership team understands how they're being perceived and where they might consider improvements. Finally, consider ways to reduce bureaucracy and provide more autonomy.
If employees face layers of hard to understand rules and policies that are well-intentioned, but not really helpful, start cutting red tape. Similarly, remember to resist micromanaging and instead, rely on simply defining great work standards. The outcomes to be achieved. When you remove bureaucratic obstacles and give a little more autonomy, people feel more engaged. Strong employee engagement is the goal. But even in great organizations, sometimes we see pockets of unproductive disengagement.
First, engage those employees individually and begin conversations that will put them back on course. Then remember to be vigilant in building your leadership pipeline. Use an occasional audit. Ask the employees for feedback on leadership practices. And do your best to cut the bureaucracy. When you put all of these together, disengagement becomes a challenge you can conquer.
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- Assessing employee engagement
- Providing autonomy
- Building a transparent culture
- Modeling desired behavior
- Using monetary and nonmonetary motivators
- Fostering accountability
- Developing career paths for employees<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.