5 Tips for More Engaged Employees

There’s been quite a bit of news recently about how top performers are disengaging and some have even begun leaving their organizations. A new study conducted by Right Management found that 54% of the 558 HR and business leaders surveyed lost top performers during the first half of 2010 (HR Executive, 2010). Using the recession as a retention tool appears to be a strategy that will no longer work for many organizations who aren’t proactively trying to retain their top people. Let’s explore how disengagement happens and what managers can do to resolve it.

Studies show that disengagement is gradual and typically precipitated by a shocking event or turning point which often leads up to an employee’s decision to quit. It also shows, however, that managers who initiate discussions and actions to engage and re-engage employees have a high likelihood of reversing disengagement and retaining their staff (Branham, 2010).

It’s time for managers to check up before their people check out. We’ve provided five tips to help you resolve disengagement issues in your organization:

  1. Train managers to notice the signs of disengagement. Such signs typically include increased absenteeism, tardiness, withdrawal, disinterest, and negativity. Performance may also suffer in some cases. Often, managers are simply too busy to observe the critical signs.
  2. Expect managers to take the initiative in initiating conversations to address signs of disengagement and resolve issues of concern. Simple open-ended questions (“how are you,” “how are things going,” or “how do you feel about that”) can generally open up the conversation. Hold them accountable for retaining their best (Branham, 2010).
  3. Emphasize to employees that they have the primary responsibility of addressing their concerns and re-engaging themselves into the workplace, and give them the tools and support to do that effectively. Such tools and support could include training, development opportunities, coaching, feedback, work/life flexibility, and more.
  4. Recognize the effects that typical shocking events or turning points may have on employees. Sixty-three (63%) percent of voluntary turnover is caused by a shocking event. Such events may include being passed over for a promotion or transfer, receiving a new boss, having a disagreement with a boss, witnessing a close colleague leave the organization, witnessing a restructuring/layoff, or enduring another significant organizational change. Also, it’s important to recognize that exit interviews typically do not uncover these events or points where disengagement begins (Branham, 2010). That’s why conversations prior to an employee’s exit are crucial.
  5. Get to know the reasons employees disengage. The most common reasons include: job or workplace did not meet employee’s expectations; mismatch between job and employee; not enough coaching and feedback; too few growth or advancement opportunities; not feeling valued, appreciated, or recognized for contributions; stress, workload, and work-life imbalance; loss of trust and confidence in leaders; perceived unfairness or favoritism; and perceived lack of support by leaders, managers or supervisors on a personal and professional level (Branham, 2007; Vajda, 2007). Conducting periodic audits or evaluations of how employees perceive these aspects of the organization can be helpful in getting a pulse of how engaged your workforce is. An engagement survey is usually the perfect tool to capture this information.

The reality is that most drivers of employee engagement lie in the power of an employee’s manager.  That’s why it’s important that we train our managers to understand how they can reverse disengagement in their work group and retain their staff.

Additional Resources

  • Employee Engagement Surveys – To gather feedback from your employees using ERC’s employee engagement survey service, please contact consulting@ercnet.org.
  • Employee Feedback Services – To gather feedback via focus groups, interviews, exit surveys or other methods, contact consulting@ercnet.org.
  • Managerial/Supervisory Training – Have your managers attend ERC’s Supervisory Series to learn about new ways of engaging and retaining their staff, or contact ckutsko@ercnet.org for on-site training in various supervisory, managerial, and leadership topics.
  • HR Help Desk – To obtain general guidance as well as sample policies and practices related to attracting and retaining top talent, please contact hrhelp@ercnet.org.


  • Branham, L. (2010). How employees disengage and quit.
  • Branham, L. (2007). The seven hidden reasons employees leave.
  • Vajda, P. (2007). The thrill is gone – when employees disengage.
  • HR Executive (2010). Top performers begin their flight.
This entry was posted in Communication, General HR, Performance Management, Training & Development and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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