Employee engagement is not a quick fix or a one-time action that results in lifelong engagement. The work of engaging employees doesn’t end when everyone’s engaged in their work. Even the best, highly engaged employees can easily disengage — and your team should be prepared to help them get back on track.
Forbes contributors David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom describe the situation of one formerly engaged employee, Clint.
“Clint joined the team excited to contribute, eager to learn, and ready to share his unique talents and do great work… but a year later, his interest was winding down,” they write. Now, Clint is “always zoned out during meetings, making excuses to leave early and even staring out into space as his computer falls into sleep mode.”
What went wrong with Clint?
Clint is not a hypothetical person. He’s a real employee, managed by a close friend of Nordstrom’s. Workplaces are filled with employees like Clint — employees who were once “the best and brightest on the team” but have since lost their inspiration and motivation. You’ll recognize them by their obvious boredom, chronic lateness, lackluster performance and workplace burnout.
The good news: re-engagement is possible, especially when you’re prepared for it. The best employee engagement programs are ready to re-engage employees, even before it’s needed. Get your company prepared! Read on for expert-recommended re-engagement strategies.
The Disengagement Challenge Managers Face
“Almost every manager today is dealing with disengagement of some kind or other,” write The Culture Works founders Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick for Inc.
“Despite all the hard work bosses have invested in recent years to be caring and attentive, statistics show workers aren’t buying it. The average employee spends about fifteen hours a month complaining about his or her manager,” Elton and Gostick write.
That amounts to 22 working days a year, or an entire month of workdays spent grumbling and getting nothing done. Elton and Gostick call it a “crippling crisis of disengagement.”
Re-engaging people who have checked out of their jobs “takes a concerted effort.”
For managers and HR teams, it means taking on the role of coach.
“Sometimes, acknowledging irreconcilable differences between an employee and your company and parting ways amicably may be the best solution,” writes Amy S. Choi for Entrepreneur. “But more often, you can bring wayward employees back into the fold with a few simple steps.”
5 Steps for Re-Engaging Employees
Be watchful for signs that once-engaged employees have become disconnected from their work. Your first step? Talk to them.
Have an Honest Conversation
“The first part of solving the problem is addressing it through an honest and respectful conversation,” Sturt and Nordstrom write. Don’t confront the disengaged employee in front of others, or put him or her on the spot. Set aside time to meet with the employee one-on-one. Begin the conversation in the spirit of finding solutions, not to discipline.
Examine the Causes
Get to the root of the problem. Does the employee feel challenged enough? What are their aspirations? Are they stressed about a workplace problem that you can help fix? Or is the issue a distracting personal or medical problem and not even work-related?
Also examine your role in their disengagement. Were you and the leadership team too preoccupied this year to express adequate employee appreciation? Does this particular employee need a different management style?
Set Goals that Inspire
Together, figure out a plan so disengagement doesn’t continue to be a problem. Set goals. Welcome their input and make sure the goals you’re setting with them are goals they’re inspired to meet!
Set goals for yourself, too. “Maybe you need to leave your door open for questions or you need to back off your micromanaging tendencies. Whatever the tweak you need to make is, don’t skip this step … there’s always something you can do to improve,” Sturt and Nordstrom advise.
Offer Development Opportunities
Often, disengaged employees simply aren’t challenged enough. They’ll appreciate opportunities such as skill development or tougher assignments. According to Elston and Gostick, a checked-out employee will only “buy back into the culture” once they’re able to satisfactorily answer “the WIIFM question” (“What’s In It For Me?”).
“We aren’t suggesting that all distasteful tasks are thrown out and nothing but plum assignments are handed their way, but savvy leaders are wise enough to know that by adding a few motivating elements or removing a few demotivating activities they can often re-engage people,” Elston and Gostick write. And besides, “who wouldn’t want to work for a manager who really does want to help you achieve your specific career goals?”
Celebrate Small Successes
Nothing busts disengagement or a stagnant workplace atmosphere like a celebration. Gallup surveys show a majority of American workers are still under-appreciated, so give employees what they’re craving: gratitude and recognition. For a formerly engaged employee, the celebration of a recent success, no matter how small, could be just the thing that motivates them and re-engages them in their work!
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