How to avoid the consequences of employee disengagement Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2010

Companies lose $350 billion a year — and for reasons that can’t be blamed on the economy. These companies are losing money because of employee disengagement.

Employee engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization, which profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work. Thus, engagement is distinctively different from satisfaction, motivation, culture, climate and opinion. An engaged employee will act in a way that furthers his or her organization’s interests.

“How many of the employees in your company are really engaged? If you believe that about half are, you may actually be surprised,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “According to a recent Gallup study on employee engagement, about 54 percent of employees in the United States are not engaged and 17 percent are disengaged. Only 29 percent are engaged.”

Smart Business spoke with Helms about what your company can do to have a satisfied, productive and enthusiastic staff.

Why is employee engagement so important?

When employees becomes disengaged, your turnover rate increases, which impacts productivity and the bottom line. You need to discuss strategies and tactics that build a corporate culture where employees want to be part of the team. Start with an employee survey; feedback from all aspects of the employee lifecycle can be used as the foundation for change and ongoing success.

What should be asked in an employee survey?

Some suggested questions to ask in your employee survey are:

  • Do you know what is expected of you?
  • Do you have the materials, equipment and information you need to do your job right?
  • Have you recently received recognition for doing a good job?
  • Does your employer seem to care about you as a person?
  • Does your manager encourage your development at work?
  • Do you feel your opinions or ideas seem to count at work?
  • Do you feel that your co-workers have the same dedication to their jobs as you?
  • Do you have a best friend at work?
  • When was the last time your manager talked to you about your progress?
  • Have you had any opportunities at work to learn and grow in the past year?

Why does appreciation change everything?

Recent research has shown that appreciation is the driver behind great work. There is no greater tool for teaching, reinforcing and aligning company goals and values than employee recognition. Appreciation will help your company by ensuring that employees are receiving the appropriate training to support their ongoing development. It also links employee skills with opportunities for growth in the company, helps employees understand how their work contributes to the company’s bottom line, and gives employees ongoing feedback on their performance.

What is the ‘C series’ when it comes to employee engagement?

The ‘C series’ is 10 guidelines that should be incorporated into an employee engagement plan. They are:

  • Career: Companies should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement.
  • Clarity: Managers need to communicate a clear vision. Success in life and business is, to a great extent, determined by how clear individuals are about their goals and what they really want to achieve.
  • Communicate: Strong leaders clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback on their job performance.
  • Congratulate: Exceptional managers give recognition, which is sure to keep employees motivated.
  • Contribute: People want to know that their input matters and that they contribute to the company’s success in a meaningful way.
  • Control: Employees value control over the flow and pace of their jobs and managers can create opportunities for employees to exercise this control.
  • Collaborate: When employees have the trust and cooperation of their team members, they outperform both individuals and teams that lack good relationships.
  • Credibility: Upper management should strive to maintain a company’s reputation and demonstrate high ethical standards.
  • Confidence: Good leaders help create confidence in a company by being examples of high ethical and performance standards.
  • Connect: Your company must show that it values employees.

What else can an employer do to increase employee engagement?

No matter what the economy is like, employee engagement is imperative for businesses to survive and thrive. Here are five other ways to increase employee engagement:

  • Reduce excessive workplace stress. If employees are stressed-out, which seems to increasingly be the case in today’s work force, they cannot be engaged.
  • Address the situation by talking about it. Let employees know that you are aware there is stress in the workplace.
  • Extend a helping hand. Let your employees know that you will work with them so they can keep a healthy balance between work and home lives.
  • Think about innovative ways to reduce stressful situations. You may consider providing alternative and flexible scheduling.
  • Think about hiring additional staff. Oftentimes, hiring an additional temporary employee seems like an expensive solution to employers. However, employers can end up spending a lot of time and money should an employee begin to have additional stress and become chronically absent or require medical leave. These situations can cause high turnover rates, so it is usually better to consider hiring temporary personnel.

M.J. Helms is the director of operations with The Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or