By Dennis Sims, special to Overdrive
It is generally easy to spot engaged employees, individuals who demonstrate a sense of commitment to their job or employer. These employees focus on the successful fulfillment of their duties, take pride in their work, collaborate with management and peers to achieve company goals, and show respect in the workplace.
It is not always easy to detect disengaged employees; however, they pose a genuine risk to today’s businesses. According to a 2013 Gallup survey entitled “State of the American Workplace,” seven of 10 workers in the United States either are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. The annual cost of this widespread discontent to American businesses is estimated to be a staggering US$450 to US$550 billion.
Employers should take heed of these findings for many reasons. Poorly engaged or totally disengaged employees seriously can weaken a business in many ways. When quality control, customer relations, innovation and teamwork, and overall morale are diminished by employees who do not care about their jobs or do not see the success of their employers as relevant, a company loses its competitive advantage and may falter.
It would seem likely that disengaged employees would simply leave their jobs if they are unhappy, and, yet, this is not always the case. One reason they may remain at their jobs is the state of the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. A need for benefits, especially health insurance, and a fear of change on the employee’s part are additional factors. Whatever the reason, the impact on employers was succinctly summarized in a report last year by consulting firm BlessingWhite: Disengaged employees “stay for what they can get” as opposed to “what they can give.”
Businesses with disengaged employees should proactively address this problem, and they can do so by first evaluating their company culture. Does the company create an environment in which all employees, regardless of their experience level, tenure or position, feel that they truly contribute to the success of the company? Do ownership and/or management effectively communicate on an ongoing basis in a way that makes employees feel connected and gives them the opportunity to be heard? Are the goals of individuals, managers and executives aligned? Do these groups have the tools to work successfully together?
These are crucial questions because employees who are disengaged may feel like company outsiders. Moreover, they may not understand the business’s direction or culture or how they fit into the company and its success. Disengaged employees may also feel disconnected from their team and believe that they are not making any progress. Thus, it is incumbent upon today’s employers to make employee engagement an essential part of their company’s operations. All managers should be made aware of their responsibilities in this regard, and given the tools to help employees become more engaged. However, if positive intervention, such as coaching, does not successfully re-engage workers, they should be considered as candidates for possible dismissal.
Employee engagement is a significant factor that affects a company’s profitability and growth. Business owners who take the necessary steps to properly engage their workforce will benefit from higher productivity, an enriched level of employee commitment, a more favorable reputation, and, ultimately, greater success.
Dennis Sims is a district manager in the Nashville, Tennessee, USA, office of Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 28 years.