Only 32 percent of employees in the United States are engaged in their work, according to the annual Gallup employee engagement survey.
And disengaged employees are bad for business. As Jeff Ross point out, disengaged workers are disconnected from the company and co-workers. They negatively impact companies by missing work, driving away customers, negatively impacting co-workers and being less productive.
If your job is to plan and organize resources to efficiently and productively manage a project, how are you supposed to achieve those goals with a disengaged workforce? While these employees may get their work done, their lack of engagement is a drain on time and resources, which hinders a project manager’s ability to do her job effectively.
Who Is An Engaged Employee?
Engage for Success describes employee engagement as employees giving their best everyday because they are committed to a company’s goals and values, motivating them to contribute to organizational success. Engagement is based on trust, commitment and communication between an organization and its members. It’s about the connection.
Engaged employees do everything they can to move the team forward, says Johnny Duncan. They understand the role they play, understand how it contributes to the success of the company and are inspired to find ways to contribute more.
HR consultant Margaret Jacoby says that engagement helps build mutual trust between employees and their managers, and that employees who are engaged are willing to make an extra effort to ensure the organization’s success. This level of engagement creates team members who can be trusted to be credible leaders during daily tasks or during a crisis.
When team members possess these attributes, they are more productive at work. The overall work environment is one that invites success. But when these attributes are lacking, production from employees drops off, the atmosphere feels tense at work, and the overall quality of output from the organization is compromised.
How to Recognize Disengaged Employees
According the the team at MyHub, a disengaged employee is one who has “mentally checked out,” doing the bare minimum to get the job done. They no longer have the motivation to engage themselves in their work or with the organization. They become a drain on resources instead of a driver of positive productivity.
Recognizing employees who are disengaged is critical. Consultant Ruth K. Ross says it is pretty clear when employees have disengaged from work. She argues that their work quality declines because they no longer have pride in doing their work well. They stop showing up to work on time and no longer offer any creative input, doing their best to be non-existent.
Not only does their work suffer, but the overall quality of their co-workers’ work and the company’s output can drop. Managers who recognize the symptoms of disengaged employees are in a better position to address the issue as soon as possible.
What Causes Someone to Disengage?
Employees become disengaged when they lose their connection with the organization. Maren Hogan explains that this happens for a number of different reasons. When employees feel as though they don’t fit in with company culture, they lose touch with its vision or mission and lose their sense of ownership. Also, people can easily become disengaged when they start questioning their career paths, and feel as though they don’t have the opportunities to take charge of their careers.
Hogen also notes that 37 percent of employees say managers fail to recognize their achievements. People like to feel valued, and when they feel undervalued at work, they lose their desire to perform well.
Andrew Larsen argues that in addition to identifying with a company’s culture, a lack of respect in the workplace is a big reason employees disengage. Employees expect to be treated with the same respect they give to leadership.
Once managers understand the reasons for disengagement, and recognize the signs that team members are disengaging, it is time to take steps to re-engage those employees.
Steps to Take to Re-Engage Employees
One of the best ways to re-engage employees is to motivate them to do their job well. While it may not be easy, it is worth the time and effort to engage employees for better performance. Here are some steps you can take to do so:
Give Employees A Purpose
As Paycom Director of Business Intelligence Brad Richardson explains, employees want to know that what they do matters to the organization and its growth. They want to understand how their contributions fit in with the bigger picture.
Start by clearly defining the mission and values of the organization. Then, use that as a roadmap to illustrate where the company is going, and explain to employees where they fit in and what role they will play. Be sure to clearly define their roles and exactly what they can do to grow into those roles.
Be specific about their goals. When employees have a goal, Richardson explains, they have something to strive toward. This reinforces their sense of purpose, which is a key motivator for engagement.
Challenge Employees Through New Opportunities
Consultant Glenn Llopis make the case that managers need to create new opportunities for their employees by giving them expanded roles and responsibilities. This challenges employees and shows them that you value their role in the organization. New opportunities require employees to engage themselves in the learning process, and renews their sense of value in the organization.
Being involved with the process is the best way to create trust between yourself and your team. Show them that you care. Eric Friedman, founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, encourages leaders to create a supportive environment by using their experience, judgement and wisdom. Trusting your team and respecting them will create a reciprocal relationship.
Part of that trust is owning your own mistakes and praising others for their accomplishments. Friedman notes that if you make a mistake, admit it immediately to your team. They will relate to you better and want to follow your lead, solidifying trust within the team.
Also, be sure to praise them for a job well done. As Llopis suggests, managers who share their success with their employees earn their employees’ trust because it makes them feel like they are an important part of the accomplishments.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The most important thing any manager can do to re-engage employees is to communicate with them regularly and encourage open dialogue and feedback between all levels of an organization. David Mizne at 15Five says that managers must ask questions to find out what employees want and need, and encourage them to offer ideas and input.
Open, two-way communication, Mizne notes, is the best way to diffuse any issues that may be brewing before they become a problem. Friedman suggests that company intranets, newsletters and meetings with open forums are useful in fostering a culture of communication.
One of the simplest ways to keep employees engaged is to recognize them for their achievements and the roles they play in the organization’s successes. Simply saying “thank you” and publicly acknowledging their contributions can have a huge impact, Friedman says.
Another way to recognize achievements is to implement incentive programs, which are proven to be highly successful at motivating employees. The International Society of Performance Improvement conducted meta-analyses and surveys of 145 US companies to determine the effectiveness of incentive programs. Here are the findings:
- Incentive programs improve performance by an average of 22 percent for individuals and 44 percent for teams.
- Incentive programs engage participants and increase interest in work.
- They attract quality employees.
- Long-term programs perform better than short-term programs.
- Quota-based incentives generate more positive results.
Engagement is Key For Retention
When project managers plan a project, they plan based on available resources, which includes people. But what if some of those resources disappeared in the middle of the project? With more than two-thirds of people disengaged at work on average, substantive team turnover is always a looming possibility. Losing those resources could significantly affect the project manager’s ability to complete the project. To prevent this, company leadership needs to be sure employees are engaged with the organization and dedicated to seeing it succeed.