Are Your Employees Buying In?

The High Cost of Disengagement


Employee engagement has become one of the hot topics in corporate America. Many executives have come to understand that the measurable impact of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job has a direct impact on the bottom line.

When we talk about what employee engagement is, it is useful to understand what it is not.  Employee engagement is not about employee happiness or satisfaction.  An engaged employee is one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work, and has an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals.

Some might find the statistics about low levels of employee engagement to be shocking.  Only 31 percent of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. Recent studies suggest that the cost to businesses in the United State of actively disengaged employees is between $370 and $588 billion per year.

Let’s turn those numbers around a bit.  If only 31 percent of employees are actively engaged, that means close to seven out of ten employees are disengaged! Some of those are downright ineffective.  However, most of those disengaged people are employees who are basically doing their job, without enthusiasm or being fully involved or connected to the mission of the organization.

Sound familiar?

There are several drivers that are proven to increase the level of employee engagement.  For today’s post, I want to focus on the one that research has shown is the most important—the direct relationship employees have with their manager.  To put that issue into perspective, consider these findings from a Towers Perrin survey that shows that most employees do NOT have great confidence in their management’s ability to lead:

  • Only 41 per cent of employees think their senior management supports new ideas and new ways of doing things;
  • Only 37 percent think senior management tries to be visible and accessible to employees;
  • Just 36 percent think senior management effectively communicates the reasons for important business decision; and
  • Just one third of employees believe senior management communicates openly and honestly to employees.

Houston, we have a problem.

I am not suggesting that the problem with disengaged employees lies solely with the leaders of the organization.  I’ve been on that side of the equation much of my career and totally understand that engagement is a two-way street. However, it is up to the leaders of an organization to create an environment is which employees thrive and feel fully committed to the goals of the organization.  That is in everyone’s best interest.

Because the relationship between manager and employee is so critically important if your organization is going to have a fully engaged workforce, it is logical to take a look at the performance and specifically the communication skills of your management team.  Some things to consider:

  • Do your managers fully understand your mission goals?  More importantly, are they “walking the walk.”
  • Evaluate their communication skills and styles. Does your company use behavioral assessments such as the DiSC profile or Myers-Briggs?  Look at their communication preferences and compare that to the preferences of the employees. Often times, it is those differences that cause many of the problems;
  • How fully developed are their listening skills?  Are they listening beyond the words employees are speaking and hearing at a deeper level, catching subtle nuances, body language and non-verbal cues? and
  • Consider coaching for all of your managers.

In my next post, I will write about other important drivers that can boost levels of engagement in your organization.