Disengaged employees are a handbrake in today’s competitive and fast-changing business environment.
Internally, disengaged employees are a toxic force in your culture. It’s these very employees who are supposedly executing your strategy. And, as the old saying goes, a bad culture will kill a good strategy every time.
Recent research by Insync Surveys shows just how big the gap is between engaged and disengaged employees when it comes to embracing productivity and innovation efforts. Results show engaged employees are almost five times (not 50% but five times) more likely than disengaged employees to say their organisation is committed to bringing innovative products and services to the marketplace and nearly six times more likely to agree their work group uses challenging goals to improve performance.
So how can leaders engage their disengaged employees and unleash their productivity? Here are the five most important things to engage disengaged employees and to increase the engagement of engaged employees even further.
1. Senior leaders must paint a picture of a compelling future
Disengaged employees are floating through their days and weeks within businesses everywhere without any connection to the future. We all know of people who just hide, particularly in big companies, getting paid without doing very much at all. Sure, this is terrible for the business but this is soul destroying for the employee. We all want meaning and purpose.
To spark employee productivity, businesses must set out a clear and inspiring long-term direction, purpose, strategy and values. Take NASA as an example, each of their employees in the 1960s knew exactly how their role would help put a man on the moon, even the janitor.
Engagement begins at the top. Senior leaders of businesses must motivate, encourage and inspire employees. It’s all about creating buy-in for a compelling future; if leaders won’t paint the picture of a compelling future then who will?
2. Link employee roles and actions to the business’ overall goals
Effective and purposeful business plans and major projects can only successfully cascade down once big picture messages are compelling for every employee. Linking employee roles and actions to overall business objectives helps to then create meaning and purpose for them in their role.
Employees are more likely to feel excited by the opportunities ahead of them and also more inspired to put in the extra effort if they can see how they’re contributing to the business’ vision. Most employees love knowing how they’re helping the business be successful.
3. Develop employee skills, talents and careers
Disengaged employees are often neglected employees. By developing and up-skilling employees we have the chance to create a greater level of fulfillment and satisfaction for them in their role. We all want to sense our skills are being used to their full potential. Developing the skills, talents and careers of employees is a true win-win for both the employer and employees as these people are then more capable and able to take on more challenging tasks.
4. Genuinely care for and support your employees
Through our research we know that“genuinely caring for and supporting employees” is the single biggest driver of employee engagement. Employees who feel cared for will be more productive. Taking the time to understand what care and commitment means for each employee, and doing our best to deliver this, is vital in creating a trusting and committed relationship along with ongoing goodwill.
5. Build a high performance culture
Employees want to work for a high performance business where their contribution matters. What’s more, your high-achieving employees want to be part of something great, not crippled by disengaged and unproductive employees. Employers can set challenging goals to increase performance and must take appropriate actions when performance measures aren’t met.
When it comes to business success, wider market forces matter and technology and systems are important but the critical enabler is inside your business – it’s your employees.
Stop and think about your disengaged employees as a handbrake that’s holding your business back. Then, by putting effort into these five areas to bring about change, productivity can be reinvigorated.
Nicholas Barnett is chief executive of Insync Surveys and the author of 7 Business Habits That Drive High Performance.