By RedBalloon for Business

What to do about employee disengagement

This is a public service announcement: Disengaged employees are estimated to cost the Australian economy $305 billion each year due to lost productivity – an average of $26,300 for every worker (ref: EY).

It’s estimated that half of all Australian employees are looking for a new job at any given time. So if they’re always looking for something else to do, how engaged can they possibly be with your business?

So why do employees become disengaged, and what can we do as businesses to stop this from happening before it’s too late?

Top 5 reasons employees become disengaged

1. Poor leadership

It’s an oft-quoted line that people do not quit their jobs, they quit their managers. Poor managers and lacklustre leadership will undermine company culture at every turn if not addressed. But there is a difference between management and leadership – listen to Big Red Group co-founder Naomi Simson explain the distinction in this webinar.

2. Lack of learning opportunities

As humans, we’re programmed to continually adapt and improve. If your people are not given the opportunity to grow and develop new skills they will quickly become bored – and boredom is a key contributor to employee disengagement. Keep them challenged with interesting work, new initiatives, opportunities to innovate and a culture built on testing and learning. Give them a safe space to try and fail and you will soon inspire a culture of growth.

3. Lack of recognition

A culture built on the foundation of rewards and recognition is proven to build engagement, drive retention and attract top talent, while simultaneously reducing disengagement, attrition and turn-over. But where recognition is lacking, so too is discretionary effort. If not given the appropriate thanks (and we’re talking more than just paying them fairly), people will do the minimum and make no attempt to give you any of their valuable discretionary effort. If you want to unlock the productive power of an engaged workplace, reward and recognition programs are a powerful means to do so.

4. Poor systems, tools and resources

Not giving your people the right tools to do the job creates a culture of frustration. Similarly, too much process, too few systems or unnecessary hurdles to getting their job done is a recipe for disengagement disaster. If you expect your people to do their best work, you need to provide them with the means to do so.

“A bad system will beat a good person every time”

W. Edwards Deming

5. Lack of communication and collaboration

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Do all of the people in your business know what they’re there to do each day? Do they know what their contribution means to the business and how their piece of the puzzle is contributing to the bigger picture? Without sufficient or appropriate communication from leadership to the rest of the business (and back up again), it’s impossible to collaborate effectively. But if you can get your people singing from the same song sheet with streamlined communication and processes surrounding the sharing of information, updates and change, you’ll have a far better chance of establishing and fostering a collaborative environment.

Top 5 ways to prevent disengagement

1. Spot it early

There are many early indicators of employee disengagement, and if you can spot them early and have the conversation, you can save your business and your employees a lot of drama. Keep an eye out for things like increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and a general air of distraction – these are key indicators that an employee is on the path to disengagement. If you can spot it early you can do something about it.

2. Listen

Ask your people for ideas, for feedback, for input into the strategy and plan for the business. If they feel invested and that what they’re doing is contributing to the overall aims of the business, they’re far less likely to become distracted by their Facebook feed between nine and five.

3. Improve leadership (and management)

Be it courses in leadership, ensuring you’re hiring people who align to your values – within the executive team and wider business – or enabling your middle-managers to take more of a leadership role and develop their skills. Get the leadership right and everything else will follow.

4. Reward and recognise the right behaviours

What gets recognised gets repeated. In fact, 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated (Socialcast). Be it a formal reward and recognition program, or more informal moments of ‘thanks’, it all goes a long way to showing your people you appreciate them.

“Recognition is the number one most impactful driver of engagement”

Kevin Sheridan 

5. Give feedback & development opportunities

Not everyone wants to be publicly celebrated, but everyone wants to hear about it when they’ve done a good job. Similarly, when there is room for improvement, have the conversation – it’s as much about the success of the business as it is about the success of the individual who can use constructive feedback to improve their work and career prospects.

Replacing high-level positions is estimated to cost upwards of 400% of their annual salary (ref: TLNT). And the picture isn’t a whole lot better for lower-level roles either. Employee engagement is fundamental to business success. At the end of the day, business is all about people – it’s people who make your business tick, and it’s people you’re selling to. Get the people puzzle right and the rest will flow.

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To find out more about how the RedBalloon for Business team can help you reward and recognise your people, contact us today