Try these 9 tips to revitalize disengaged employees

The productivity lost to staff apathy costs U.S. businesses about a half-trillion dollars annually. Reversing that trend—in your workplace, anyway—is worth some time and effort, no?


Is it possible to convert disengaged employees? If so, how?

The quick answer is yes, with invested effort.

Imagine an organization of 100 people. It’s tough to keep everyone engaged. That doesn’t mean—necessarily—that their managers are poor leaders. What causes most disengagement is a failure to understand how to promote high engagement.

Some strategists implement filters that reduce minimal-value tasks and highlight those that promote effective leadership. It’s cost-effective and helps motivate employees. Once such frameworks and objectives are in place, it is easier to convert disengaged employees.

According to a Gallup study, disengaged employees cost the U.S. somewhere between $450 billion and $550 billion annually in lost productivity. A mere 30 percent of employees are engaged at work; the rest just put in their hours or, worse, are damaging within the workplace.

To decipher a company’s engagement level, Gallup asks employees questions like:

  • Do I have the opportunity to do my best work each day?
  • Am I surrounded by an encouraging and supportive team?
  • Is the company’s mission purposeful, which enables me to feel my role in the workplace is important?
  • Are my views heard?

The answers tie directly to the organization’s performance.

Here are tips to help you re-engage your employees:

1. Ask questions. Disengaged employees should be heard and encouraged in open forums and office meetings. Asking questions helps share their views and opinions, which could hold the key to your next big idea.

2. Have faith. People want to succeed; no one wants to be mediocre. The way to deal with disengaged employees is having empathy and taking their concerns seriously.

3. Berating won’t work. If your employees aren’t performing as well as you had hoped, try to find out what’s holding them back.

4. Set goals together. Get their attention back on track by mutually agreeing on deadlines and goals, instead of just dictating terms to them. Coach them on ways they can achieve the goal, and brainstorm ways they can contribute. You’ll soon reap the benefits of the time you’ve invested.

5. Appreciate them. Even if disengaged employees are taking baby steps on the way to improving, appreciation from the boss is always welcomed. It brings with it the realization that they are a valued part of the team.

6. Deliver opportunities. Monotonous work is a primary reason people disengage. Give them new projects to work on, or, better still, encourage them to initiate something. This will foster a sense of ownership and belonging.

7. Try flexible working hours. Productivity decreases as the workday wears on, so overtime hours could be detrimental. In contrast, being flexible—the option to work from home or having customized working hours—can improve employee relationships and productivity.

8. Showcase hidden talents. A graphic designer might be a fantastic singer, or an accountant could be a hilarious standup comedian. By hosting monthly showcases as a stress buster from the daily grind, no matter how small the scale, you show that you care about the person as a whole.

9. Encourage mistakes. We often stop short of a great idea because it “might be a mistake.” So be it. Learn, and do better next time. Encouraging openness in the workplace promotes creativity.

A version of this post first ran on SocioAdvocacy’s blog.

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