There probably isn’t a manager alive today who isn’t dealing with disengaged employees of some kind or another. Whether it happens slowly or all at once, watching a person fall out of love with their work can be hard.
We talk a lot about engagement and how important it is to business doings like innovation and output, but not everyone buys into it. The average employee spends about 15 hours per month complaining about their work – that adds up to almost a month’s worth of days spent grumbling and stewing at the expense of more productive activities. Gallup puts the cost of a disengaged workforce at $50 million per year for a company of 500 employees.
There’s no point denying that it’s difficult to have this sort of conversation and turn a disengaged employee around. But investing the time and energy helps you harness the power of your people and learn how to keep everyone on track.
If you have a disengaged employee, here are three tips on how to start the conversation.
1. First, you have to know what you are dealing with.
Disengagement is an umbrella term for a variety of issues, such as burnout, stress, boredom or workplace conflict. As such, signs of disengagement can present themselves in different ways depending on the employee. For example, a once-focused employee might seem distracted or irresponsible at work, while the office go-getter now lacks initiative, makes excuses or simply stops asking questions. Each employee is unique, which means managers need to pay attention to every individual’s working style to notice when things change – and more importantly why.
2. Listen, don’t talk.
Once you’ve noticed an employee is disengaged from their work, it’s never too early to have a conversation with them about what’s behind the change. The best managers listen more than they speak, says employee engagement expert Ron Hirshfeld in an interview with Forbes. Ask open ended questions to learn what motivates them and what triggered the loss of interest. For example, you could ask, “Do you feel like your work is meaningful?” or “What is your job wish-list, beyond what you are doing today?”. This should lead into a conversation about how the employee has purpose and fits into the overall strategic goals of the organisation, what they want to achieve, and how they can take more control of their role and speak up about concerns in the future.
3. See engagement as a moving target.
Once you and the employee have come up with some ways to try and re-engage them in their work, follow through and follow up – often. The old adage that actions speak louder than words rings true here. Chances are a disengaged employee is indicative of larger problems within the business, so take this chance to learn more about the pain-points within your organisation and learn more about how to fix them. Good managers remain curious about their employees and connected. Simply asking an employee how you can help goes a long way towards building trust and momentum.
No one loves their job all day, every day; it’s normal for engagement levels to fluctuate. What’s not all right, though, is when a bad day turns into something more permanent. This is just a short list, but hopefully it’s enough to get you thinking about taking an active role in getting employees engaged and keeping them that way.