As unpleasant as it is to think about, there’s a chance that a large percentage of your staff is no longer engaging with their jobs or the work that they do. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, 52% of workers in the US are “disengaged” from their jobs and 18% are “actively disengaged.” Now, the difference between these two levels of disengagement is the difference between somebody who tries to put on a happy face and get on with their life and somebody who lets everybody else know just how miserable they are. Disengagement begets more disengagement. As those actively disengaged workers continue to cast doubt on every move that management makes, it’s doing damage to the morale of your engaged and disengaged employees alike. In order to make sure that you get the most out of your employees and that they get the most out of their jobs, the first thing to do is find out what’s making them so dissatisfied.
Now, there is such a thing as a bad apple. This sort of person has had a problem with authority for their whole life and has probably done nothing but complain at every job they’ve ever had. If you have a relaxed company culture, it’s unprofessional. If you have a highly professional company culture, it’s too corporate. The point is that there’s no pleasing employees with advanced disengagement problems and you’re probably better off replacing them before they break down the morale of the people around them.
But those are the easy cases to spot. If your company holds true with the national average, then over half of your employees are disengaged from their work. Take a look around your office. Chances are that you see a whole bunch of tired people, working. In order to prevent the retention and productivity problems that come along with a disengaged staff, you get past the “happy face” that so many people have gotten used to putting on for work.
The best way to start fixing any engagement problem is to open a dialogue with your disengaged employees. The point of this dialogue is to coax the truth out of your employees, a truth that they might be afraid to tell you. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that some of your disengaged employees are withdrawing because of work practices that you’ve put in place or because of a good ol’ fashioned personality clash. Though it might sting a bit to hear this kind of stuff, make sure that you open yourself up to your employees’ side of things. The point here is to address the morale problems on your staff, not sweep them under the rug. If you suspect that your employees won’t be able to tell you that they want a different manager to your face, have somebody else conduct these employee check ins. Your employees might feel a bit more comfortable telling somebody else about their problems with company policy than telling the person who wrote it.