Engage your staff

‘Sickies’ will kill Australian businesses in the downturn. NAOMI SIMSON

Naomi Simson Blog

By Naomi Simson

In troubled times, business must do more with less. There may be less people in your business, less customers, less capital, less cash…. But one thing you do want less of is people “chucking a sickie”.

As a result there a some simple options available to doing more with less:

  1. Whinge to anyone who might still be interested in listening.
  2. Innovate – find new ways of doing things.
  3. Maximise your return on what you do have… that is “how engaged is the team?”

I have blogged regularly about employees’ discretionary effort… but Gallup have just given me a sneak look at this years Australian employee engagement results.

“For every engaged person there is a disengaged person,” says the Gallup Organisation.

Actively disengaged (these are people who hate going to work) has increased (at the expense of engaged employees) significantly.

The scary thing is that in tough times, people are also less likely to leave you (that means the bad ones are staying too). Of those disengaged employees only 45% are planning to look for a new job in 2009… even worse, some 24% are planning to stay with their employer for the rest of their working life. I suppose that is the real definition of love/hate relationship.

Engaged employees (know what they are there to do and are busy getting on with it) has gone down from 21% in 2006 to 18% in 2008.

These figures were just completed in November… and says to me that people are more confused now and they are not getting clear messages from the leadership of their organisations… a 3% swing in only two years is massive. This will cost Australia dearly.

Not engaged employees are those who show up – but don’t do anything extra – this is the group which has a lot of discretionary effort to give. And in the study in both 2008 and 2006, it remains unchanged at 61%.

The scary thing is that actively dsengaged employees are growing in big numbers– that is, these people will work against what their co-workers or managers are trying to achieve; from 18% in 2006 up to 21% now.

This is really hurting business – and is simply untenable in such extreme economic times. The estimate of what it is costing Australia in lost productivity is:

  • Australia: $33.5 billion to $42.1 billion (2006 = $32.7 billion).
  • New Zealand: $5.6 billion to $5.96 billion (2006 = $3.7 billion).

If the bottom line is not enough to get you thinking about how aligned your team is to what you are doing to reward and recognise them for their contribution, here’s some more evidence…

Funny how if you don’t like what you do, you are more likely to get sick. The “sickie” has got to go. And if people are simply recognised for what they contribute, they are far less likely to take a sick day.

Number of work days missed through sickness in the passed 12 months:

  • Engaged = 3.
  • Not engaged = 5.
  • Actively disengaged = 8.

Also those who like you, engaged employees, will stay – 89% plan to be with the same employer for the next 12 months (not only are they the top performers, but they also cost less in recruitment/replacement costs).

The investment in people is essential… it just makes so much bottom line sense.


Naomi is a finalist in the 2008 Australian HR Awards and the 2008 Telstra Women’s Business Awards, winners to be announced end 2008. Naomi was also a finalist for the BRW Most Admired Business Owner Award in 2008 and Marketing Employer of Choice by B&T in 2007. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a professional speaker inspiring middle to high-level leaders on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blogand has written a book sharing the lessons from her first five years.

To read more Naomi Simson blogs, click here .



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