Engaged employees drive revenue, provide quality products and services, and create positive customer interactions. Employees who are actively disengaged are estimated to cost the U.S. economy roughly half a trillion dollars a year due to factors such as lost productivity, employee time theft, and client alienation due to poor customer service.
No one debates how debilitating disengaged employees are, but some organizations struggle with how to create employee engagement in the first place. It doesn't have to be a difficult challenge.
What Causes Employee Disengagement?
Employee disengagement is the result of a number of factors, many of which are under the control of managers. If employee engagement surveys and the observed lackluster attitudes of employees in your workplace are any indications of the work environment you provide for employees, it's time to worry.
Change the Environment
If you can figure out what is causing the employee disengagement, you can take the steps necessary to replace the bad environment with a vital, optimistic, forward-thinking, engaged workplace.
Ask the Employees What Hurts
The first rule of any medical diagnosis is to ask the patient where it hurts. Patients are often the best guides to help doctors determine what’s wrong and how to fix it. Likewise, asking your employees how they feel and why they feel that way is the first rule of diagnosing employee engagement and assessing dissatisfaction.
Asking lets employees know that you care enough to listen to them. Demonstrating that you care goes a long way toward building loyalty and respect. It provides a safe forum for employees to give feedback. Some feedback is bound to come across as petty and complaining, but the majority of it will point toward real opportunities to become a better, more engaging organization.
Ask employees what you can do to help them do their jobs well. You'll create a culture of continuous improvement and constructive feedback, both keys to building and maintaining a successful organization.
Report the survey findings after asking employees for their opinions. Transparency with the results is key to building trust in the process. Individual responses should remain confidential, but it's important to quickly share the aggregate results of an employee engagement survey with the company.
Employee disengagement happens for different reasons in different groups, so each group must receive survey results that are specific to them. What impacts people in sales might have little bearing on challenges faced by the finance team.
Transparency engenders trust within the organization. Employees are shown that they have a voice when you ask them what's working for them and what isn't, and they'll be assured that you've heard them if you share the results openly.
Demonstrate your commitment to act on any issues that have been uncovered by being willing to respond and sharing the results quickly.
Empower Managers and Employees
Empower your employees and managers to act on the survey results. This is most effective when managers and employees work together to create solutions.
Invite employees to join with managers to help craft the answers to problems. It can be helpful to pair employees with managers other than their own because some of the most common engagement issues center on the relationship between managers and their reporting employees.
Act on Insights and Results
An organization will do far more damage than good if it fails to act on the results of a survey. Not acting hurts credibility. It reduces trust and engenders disloyalty in employees who've had their hopes raised only to then feel ignored.
Take immediate steps to implement the feedback when the results come in. This shows employees that their comments are important to the organization and that the company is committed to active improvements.
Of course, some of the feedback will require further discussion or long-term planning, but some solutions can be implemented quickly enough to provide an early win for managers and workers.
Communicate clearly with employees to let them know why a decision was made if your organization is unable to act on employee feedback. Tell them what alternatives were considered and what other options are available.
Repeat the Survey Process
It’s not enough to just run an employee engagement survey once every year or two. Think of all of the changes an organization can go through during that length of time. It’s important to let employees know that you intend to do engagement surveys and associated pulse surveys on a consistent basis.
This acknowledges your commitment. Many top companies run annual employee engagement surveys that take a comprehensive look at employees' relationships with the organization, then they do a variety of pulse surveys throughout the year to measure the impact of engagement efforts as new processes or programs are implemented.
The Bottom Line
Make employee engagement and quick pulse surveys a central and ongoing part of your organization’s improvement process. Given the damage that actively disengaged employees can cause, it’s important for organizations to proactively encourage them.