disengaged employees

Disengaged Employees? Don’t reach for the survey button yet

When organisations want to increase productivity and employee engagement within the workforce, it can be all too easy to reach for the ‘employee engagement survey’ button. As HR professionals we can do a lot more to alleviate this issue than send round a survey. Whilst surveys absolutely have their place in analysing engagement levels within an organisation, it’s helpful to also look at the bigger picture.

If you are suffering from disengaged employees or an unproductive environment, it could be symptomatic of a bigger issue.

Here’s a few indicators to be on the lookout for:

Cultural issues

When we say symptomatic of a bigger issue, it could be a number of things that come under the culture umbrella. Could you be looking at the outcome of a high absence rate which is putting extra pressure on employees in the workplace and causing low morale (could it be work related stress which is causing employees to go off), or a grievance culture? Or could we be looking at a dignity at work issue? An environment where employees have a high workload and weak management where people don’t feel valued, or worse are being treated unfairly by management, could be the driver of your productivity problems.

If this sounds familiar, consider rolling out a new dignity at work policy, or if you already have one – reiterate it. Organisations who ‘get it right’ in terms of the tone, culture and understanding what they want to achieve through their HR policies set themselves up with a fantastic opportunity to communicate key business aims and objectives to their employees.

You can also consider new training initiatives, or revisiting programmes that have been successful in the past. Dignity at work training as an example, will be uncomfortable for some but it sends a strong message to your workforce that this behaviour is not tolerated and that the business is taking action to do something about it. It’s important to lead by example.

how to get the budget to settle an employment tribunal claimTurnover numbers

Take a deeper dive into your attrition rate and the comments made at your exit interviews. Use this data to highlight any trends that may exist but may not be obvious; these could be anything from a high turnover rate in a particular team, to something less obvious like a trend within a certain demographic of your workforce. If you do find some trends, use this data to help you understand what the driver for your disengaged employees could be.

The working environment

Depending on what your line of work entails, the working environment can provide a strong indicator for identifying the driver behind low productivity and engagement. Does the work your employees undertake cause any stresses and strains on the body? If so, could it be impacting on your absence rates? If you are thinking yes, it might be time to start thinking about adapting the environment or using a rotation system to alleviate any of these problems. Analyse what these changes need to be and how they can be successfully applied within the environment.

Manage individuals sensitively

Of course, you may not be dealing with a ‘global’ disengagement and productivity issue and need to focus on just a few challenging employees. This situation requires careful navigation as its often not clear what the problem is, and the employee may not volunteer the information to you.

But, if you have a star employee who gives 100%, 100% of the time and suddenly their productivity and engagement fall off a cliff edge, or simply someone is acting out of character – there is usually a reason and there are ways HR can help.

‘Go Informal’ First

‘Going informal’ has the benefits of speed and flexibility and fits perfectly for one-on-one issues. Call a one-to-one meeting and offer any support this individual might need to continue delivering their role to the highest standard.

If it’s a performance issue, identify the gap

The first thing to work out is the performance gap, what’s causing it and if there are any drivers behind the issues that could be a sign of disengagement. Here’s a handy video on the performance management cycle that might help.

Look at the bigger picture

It’s also possible that an employee’s drop in performance could be symptomatic of a health issue. Here you can look at medical capability or OH to see what adjustments and support can be put in place to help them to get to the standard they need to be at. Again, try informal first and if that doesn’t work – take it formal.

Acting proactively and thinking about the underlying drivers for all employees as a matter of routine will not only help organisations to prevent issues remaining unresolved; but support them in taking a huge step towards achieving a positive, productive, engaged and inclusive workplace culture that supports business growth.

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