How to Spot and Fix Employee Disengagement

By Whit Mitchell
Employee disengagement is bad for business. Every manager knows that. But do you know just how bad? A recent Gallup poll estimated that “disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.”
Not only that, but a staggering 70% of American workers are not engaged at work!
Employees disengage for a variety of reasons:
The job is a bad fit. Whether the employee has been promoted to the wrong position, or simply hired based on a splashy resume and a gut feeling, having the right person in the wrong position is pretty common. The great news is there are plenty of tools available to help companies create a job benchmark—and to measure the fit of the potential employee for that position—before it ever gets this far. Companies can easily nail down the key results that affect superior performance and the characteristics needed for success in the position.
The employee’s values aren’t being satisfied. This one is just common sense, although many people may not be able to identify whether their values are being satisfied without some serious self-reflection. If an employee identifies his or her top seven values, and then measures the job against these values, it can be eye opening. For example, if the employee values collaboration but the position doesn’t require teamwork, that employee will eventually disengage. The fact is that when values are not satisfied, poor behaviors show up.
It’s a poor cultural fit. Organizations are finally starting to pay attention to company culture, both defining and developing it. But a major part of sustaining company culture is knowing when someone just doesn’t fit. And employees will be able to feel it too. Culture is exceedingly important to the Millennial generation, and if you don’t have a company culture that fits their ideals, they will find a company that does.
Here are some common signs of employee disengagement:

  • Coming in late and leaving early
  • Not connecting with the team, and even withdrawing
  • Not accomplishing tasks in a timely manner
  • Doing just the bare minimum on projects
  • Not putting in any extra thought or offering ideas
  • Mood and behaviors change for the worse
  • Creating challenge or conflict where it doesn’t exist

The best way to remedy employee disengagement is to face it head on. Connection is the best way to do this. Leaders should check in with employees on a regular basis, either to have a quick conversation, lunch or coffee.
It’s the old adage, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” People often bring their lives (stresses, worries, excitements, and preoccupations) with them to work. By having regular conversations, you will be able to understand what they have brought to work that week and how it might affect their performance.
It’s akin to having sixth sense for how things are going for your people. To be a great manager, you must step into your employees’ shoes and see where they are coming from. Managers must manager people, not just tasks.