Employee disengagement is becoming more common in the workforce, leading to decreased workforce effectiveness. According to Loretta Prencipe (CNN, 2001), disengagement can lead to many different behaviors, most notably decreased contributions to the organization, increased absence, and turnover. The effects of disengagement behaviors typically slow down productivity and quality of work. Interestingly enough, at a time when organizations can’t afford to reap the effects of disengagement, the phenomenon appears to be more widespread.
A study conducted by Watson Wyatt (2009) shows that top performers are more likely to become disengaged as a result of downsizing or restructuring efforts, a common practice among businesses these days. For this reason, organizations should strive to re-engage their top performers.
Fortunately, organizations can use a variety of strategies to re-engage their employees. In particular, relationships between managers, leaders, and employees are crucial to re-engaging a workforce. Clint Swindall (2007) in “Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement,” recommends a series of steps managers and leaders can take to deal with employee disengagement:
- Start a conversation. Oftentimes, employees were once engaged and over time have become disengaged. It is important to privately discuss this matter with employees in a positive manner and explore the reasons for disengagement behaviors. Work to develop and inspire them as best you can.
- Engage top performers in the vision. Re-establishing a vision for the organization’s success is critical during times of change. Solicit the input of your top performers when creating the vision of the organization.
- Use positive motivation. Ask employees what will inspire and motivate them. Give them something to work towards – this will increase their engagement in their jobs and the organization.
- Manage change. If your organization is undergoing change, prepare for and handle it effectively. Provide employees with reasons for the change and use data to explain these reasons. Introduce the change as an improvement and communicate to employees how it will affect them.
- Encourage work/life balance. Trust employees and give them optimal flexibility. Make a list of the flexibilities you enjoy and chances are your employees would enjoy these flexibilities as well. To the extent that employees have the ability, based on their job, provide them with some of these freedoms.
- Create a fair work environment. Be consistent when enforcing policies and consequences. Unfairness breeds disengagement.
- Understand needs. Though fairness is essential, recognizing diversity in needs across generations is equally important. Individuals have different needs depending on their position in the employment cycle. It is important to understand employees’ needs in each cycle and reach them appropriately.
- Embrace real empowerment. Provide the necessary information, share your power to make decisions, and get your team thinking about problems and solutions. Be open to the ideas and suggestions of your team.
- Provide challenging and meaningful work. Employees become disengaged when they think their potential and time is not being put to good use. It is important to assess how well employees believe their skills and abilities are being used within the organization and make adjustments to job design.
- Celebrate and reward small successes. Establish a method of celebrating success and a designated time to do so every day. Creating a spontaneous reward system is also another way of celebrating successes.
Consider using ERC’s Employee Engagement Survey to pinpoint whether different aspects of your workplace are aligned with engaging employees and to obtain pointed and specific recommendations on how to improve engagement at your organization. For more information on this service, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Luss, R. (2009). Engaging employees through periods of layoffs. Watson Wyatt.
- Prencipe, L. (2001). Disengaged employees: When good employees go bad. CNN.
- Swindall, C. (2007). Engaged leadership: Building a culture to overcome employee disengagement.