The High Cost of Disengaged Employees

Employee engagement has become an area of focus within organizations that recognize that the measurable impact of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job has a direct impact on the organization’s bottom line.

Some might find the statistics about low levels of employee engagement to be shocking. Only 31 percent of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. Recent studies suggest that the cost to businesses in the United States of actively disengaged employees is between $370 and $588 billion per year.

When we talk about what employee engagement is, it is useful to understand what it is not. Employee engagement is not about employee happiness or satisfaction. An engaged employee is one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work, and has an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals.

Employees typically fall into one of four engagement/effectiveness categories:

Engaged/Ineffective. These are usually new employees who are excited about their new job but are just “learning the ropes.” They typically represent about 5 percent of the workforce.

Engaged/Effective. This is when employees have a good grasp on their job responsibilities and innovation and creativity starts to flourish. Typically about 15 percent.

Disengaged/Ineffective. These are the 5 percent who aren’t buying in and aren’t getting it done.

Disengaged/Effective. This is the largest and most frustrating part of the employee population. They are competent at their work. They get the tasks done, but there is little or no connection or concern for the goals or values of the organization.They “go along to get along.” Various research estimates that this population ranges between 50 and 80 percent of employees.

Employee engagement is not something that can be simply manufactured. However, there are several drivers that, if managed properly, can enrich the levels of employee engagement in your organization. They include:

Live your values. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch says “take the values plaque off the wall.” Your employees should not only know your mission and vision for the organization, they should see their leaders living those values every day.

Communication. Clearly communicate job expectations. Encourage open, honest, two-way communication — including criticism. Be transparent in sharing financial information about the company. Employ a continuous feedback loop. Provide genuine encouragement.

Encouragement and reward innovation. Develop an environment where employees feel the freedom to challenge the status quo and create new ideas. Recognize and provide incentives for their accomplishments.

Delegate and empower. All too often, employees are given a task but not the freedom to manage the project in the way that best works for them. When you delegate a responsibility to someone you must trust them to do the job and avoid micromanaging their progress. Nothing deflates an employee more than being assigned a responsibility and having the boss taking every opportunity to tell them how to do the job.

Career advancement and development opportunities. Employees want to know that you genuinely care about their career. If your organization has an established reputation of investing in the continuous development of employees, you will find that will be able to attract and keep top talent.

Author Kevin Kruse has identified what he calls the Engagement-Profit Chain which he ties to the ROI of engagement. He says engaged employees lead to higher service, quality and productivity, which leads to higher customer satisfaction, which leads to increased sales and higher levels of profits.

Developing engaged and effective employees in your organization is, quite simply, good business.

Ross Woodstock is an executive and leadership coach and communications strategist with Kolt Communications, Inc.








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