8 Red Flags of Disengaged Employees and Solutions to Re-Engage
Startling statistics show that 79% of the global workforce is made up of disengaged employees! According to a Gallup survey, “work is just a paycheck,” “watching the clock tick” and “living for the weekend” are the mantras of most workers around the globe. Do your employees seem like they’re not fully engaged in their work and, perhaps, only along for the ride?
Definition of Disengaged Employees
Disengaged employees lack attachment and emotional connection to their work, co-workers, and the company. This disconnect can be due to personal reasons, such as challenges with a special needs child or serious health diagnosis. Or it can result from aspects in the work environment, like a toxic culture or passive-aggressive manager. Whatever the case, it would behoove leaders to inspect and address engagement levels. Disengaged employees tend to make more mistakes, are slower accomplishing tasks, and are frequently late or absent.
“It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.” - Peter Gibbons, Office Space
Red Flags of Disengaged Employees
Successful managers are observant and notice changes in employee behavior. It’s important to quickly identify the red flags and make the effort to re-engage these employees sooner than later.
Red flags of disengaged employees should be easy to spot with the right critical observation skills. Bad habits are the first things to take a closer look at...
- Are any of your employees quiet quitting?
- Are they only performing the jobs assigned to them and doing the bare minimum?
- Do some employees consistently miss deadlines or lack of enthusiasm?
- Do they call in “sick” frequently?
- Do you have employees who have a negative attitude and never have anything positive to say?
- Are employees not communicating like they have done in the past?
- Is their quality of work declining, or are they not working to their full potential?
Definition of Engaged Employees
Employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm and dedication an employee feels toward their job, the company, and even their manager. Engaged employees show a willingness to continue to improve and stay dedicated to better work. They go above and beyond, without being asked. They are lifelong learners. They want to succeed and see their company be successful.
One of my former employers measured employee engagement by asking us to complete a confidential survey. We were asked to rank our level of job satisfaction, state if our job aligned with the bigger mission, agree or not that we had the tools to be successful, and, lastly, say if we would encourage friends and family to work there.
The Role of Leaders and Managers
A successful business leader focuses on an overall vision of engagement at work. At HSI, our CEO actively works to create a culture of engagement, by continually reaching out in various ways, including the following:
- Holds quarterly all-hands meetings. Shares state of the company and company initiatives.
- Actively posts, likes, and comments on our social media Chatter channel. Provides updates on projects and congratulates on closed sales and work anniversaries.
- Holds virtual coffee talk with the CEO for new hires. Focus is on “Why HSI?” and the opportunity to ask questions about the company and team.
A great manager provides encouragement and reinforcement. They are motivators and inspire others. Primary to that, managers should be engaged in their own work. Employees may find it difficult to be engaged if their manager is not.
To be fully engaged in your career is exhilarating. I know, as I’m living it. With over 25+ years of experience in corporate America, I realize that business leaders and management set the stage. HSI’s company culture truly fosters engagement, and it comes from the top.
My manager practices the seven solutions for re-engagement on a regular basis. These best practices started not on my first day of my new job, but actually during the interview process. I don’t even think twice about going above and beyond. I’m fully committed to learning, growing, and putting in the extra effort. I want to succeed, and see my manager, co-workers, and company be successful.
7 Solutions to Re-Engage Employees
Not addressing a lack of engagement can lead to employee turnover, costing the company more money in firing, recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and new employee training. The cost of disengaged employees is significant when considering all these factors.
Start putting the following 7 re-engagement solutions into practice today. It’s critical not only to the success of the company and the disengaged employees but to yours as well. Managers should commit to the following actions:
#1: Set Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations instills a feeling of responsibility. This responsibility is not only to themselves, but to their manager, peers, and company.
- The employee’s role, as well as their connection with team members and other departments, should be clear. All employees should have a copy of their job description. It should include the expectations for the role, entire team, and cross-functional interactions.
- Discuss short- and long-term employee performance goals with direct reports. Share a copy noting these goals along with timeframes. Schedule regular touch-base meetings, as well as performance reviews, to ensure the employee is meeting goals.
- Employees must understand the connection between the significance of their work and how it impacts the company’s success. With this understanding, the employee feels valued. They know how their work makes a difference. They have a sense of purpose.
“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” - Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard, Do People Really Know What You Expect from Them?, Fast Company
#2: Show Empathy
Showing empathy shows the disengaged employee that they matter and that you care.
During my career, I’ve seen signs of disengagement caused by difficulties in one’s personal life. The root cause can range from divorce to caring for older parents, stress about the pandemic or health issues, and even self-medicating.
Showing empathy, care, and concern is the best way to approach disengaged employees. Do not ask disengaged employees to share personal information. Instead, I delicately ask if they have things going on in their personal lives that might be affecting their focus at work. If so, I urge them to take advantage of the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and confidentially speak to a licensed certified therapist. I also offer flexible hours, as this can help with re-engagement. And it can help reduce the stress they are having in their personal life.
In one case where I reached out, the person was incredibly relieved that I noticed and offered some help. They broke down in my office and were so grateful for my support and advice. They eventually had to take short-term disability to deal with medical and personal issues. Disciplinary actions would not have been fair.
Another time I observed that someone was disengaged in their current role, but they had simply outgrown their job. I subtly encouraged them to pursue a different role in the company that was a better fit for their technical skills. The disengaged employee is fully engaged in the new role. My empathy and observation skills helped retain a good employee who was just in the wrong role.
#3: Establish Clear and Open Communication
Clear and open communication lessens stress. It allows for conversations to flow. And it promotes the sharing of ideas in a non-threatening work environment.
- Explain everyday tasks. Employees should know the who, what, when, how, and why of each project. Set them up for success.
- Keep your direct reports in the loop of developments and/or changes. Treat them like you would want to be treated. They need to feel valued and like they’re part of the team. How would you feel if you worked long hours on a project and were not told it was on hold by upper management?
- Be sincerely interested in their opinions. Curious employees who ask great questions are engaged and want to keep learning. Not only do they feel valued, but you may discover new ideas and better solutions. The same holds true for involving them in the decision-making process, when appropriate. As a manager, always ask for employee feedback and actively listen.
#4: Provide Regular Feedback
Providing regular feedback leads to engagement and job growth. Employees feel respected and valued when their manager gives them positive feedback. The same holds true for helpful advice on areas where they can strengthen their skill set.
- Hold weekly one-on-one meetings. Provide feedback on a job well done, as well as any developmental opportunities.
- Always give regular recognition on why they add value. Praises such as, “I appreciate how thorough you are,” motivates the employee. And they know their manager values this trait.
- Provide immediate feedback in an email with a simple note like “Nice job!” or “Thank you! Well done!”
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” - Stephen R. Covey, American educator, businessman, keynote speaker, and author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
#5: Build Professional Relationships
Building professional relationships allows the disengaged employee to begin to feel more connected. The relationships strengthen the loyalty to their manager, peers, and company.
Here are several ways to create and fortify these critical connections:
- Build trust by not micromanaging.
- Be respectful in the way you speak, listen, and interact with others.
- Be fair. Hold yourself and others accountable.
- Actively listen and show genuine interest in others’ ideas, skills, and perspectives. It’s important for employees to feel heard and understood.
- Share success stories. This positive behavior builds bonds through sharing knowledge and instills respect.
- Get to know each employee as a person, not just a “worker bee.” A great way to do this is by chatting before or after meetings and asking simple questions. It does not take much time at all to learn of common interests. Enjoy each other’s company at social gatherings and volunteer events.
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” - Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox
#6: Communicate Advancement Opportunities
Not every employee wants to move up the corporate ladder. But it’s important to understand everyone’s goals to keep them fully engaged.
- Discuss career path. Be sure to always evaluate roles and responsibilities as skill sets grow.
- Delegate projects so employees can gain experience.
- Offer a mentorship program. To create a mentoring program, read HSI’s blog titled Mentorship Program Template: A Guide to Creating a Mentoring Program.
- Provide training to keep skills up to date. Upskill training for HiPos (High Potentials) keeps them engaged. It also prepares them as future leaders of your company.
- When developing HiPos, be sure to have them work with cross-functional teams, to keep them engaged. By interacting with other departments, top performers can grow. They more clearly can understand the big picture. And they can meet others who may help them in their career success.
HSI offers training to keep skills up to date. And we also provide upskill training courses to keep your employees engaged. These courses will spur employee motivation and will help them advance in their career.
Here is HSI’s entire training video on “How to Know What You Don’t Know: Identifying Blind Spots.” This video is just one example of the wide variety of training videos HSI offers in our whole-person approach to training. Enjoy!
#7: Have Fun!
Having fun with co-workers can help disengaged employees re-engage. And, it can add fire to already energized, engaged employees. You can easily arrange these activities with truly little effort.
- Enjoy happy hours, baseball games, or bowling tournaments.
- Schedule a Halloween costume contest and a secret Santa gift exchange.
- Use messaging channels such as Slack or Teams to share pictures of your kids and pets.
- Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, successfully executed projects, and good work.
Of course, it’s important to see that all employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. This has become a much higher priority, coming out of the pandemic. Be sure to be respectful of employees' personal lives and the commitments they may already have in place.
It’s an understatement that disengaged employees are costing your company money. An actively disengaged employee will cost their organization $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary, or 34%, according to a recent Gallup poll. So if an actively disengaged worker makes $60,000 a year, it will cost the company $20,400 a year.
Managers must be actively engaged; otherwise, disengaged employees will quickly result. Due to the impact of these disengaged employees to the bottom line, an action plan is critical. Offering an employee training and development program to help manage engagement levels is a wise decision. Additional training can also help in refining managers’ soft skill sets.
HSI Can Help
HSI’s Business Skills library has all the courses you need to curate a curriculum that identifies, and addresses disengaged employee issues. Here is a sampling of what HSI has to offer.
- Healthy Communication
- Helping Your Employees Find Purpose
- Know Your EAP
- Managerial Courage:
- What It Takes to Manage
- Are You a Micromanager?
- Retaining Your Best People
- Your Management Style
- Fighting for Your Team
- Empathy as a Leader
- Giving Feedback
- Managing for Engagement:
- Engagement Matters
- Creating Engagement
- Measuring Employee Engagement
- Creating an Engaged Organization
- The Manager’s Role in Reducing Employee Turnover
Many of our clients open their HSI training library to their employees for self-directed learning. This empowers them and makes them feel valued. Employees can choose off-the-shelf training video courses best suited for their unique needs. Sign up for a free trial of our HSI LMS. You will have access to our Business Skills library, to watch any of the courses mentioned.