“What is wrong with them? They have a good job, with good pay and benefits and they act as if they are doing us a favor coming into work!” Many of the organizations complain that their workforce is disengaged and they need help getting them back on track.

Coffman (2002) states a Gallup poll estimates that actively disengaged workers cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year, and that was the cost 9 years ago. Right Management (2009) says” a new survey shows that many workers are unhappy with their present jobs.

Sixty percent of employees intend to leave when the economy rebounds and an additional one-in-four are networking and updating their resumes.”

An upturn in the economy will send shudders throughout organizations which experience massive turnover in their ranks, and this will have a negative influence on the morale and engagement of those who choose to stay. Think of the impact this would have on your organization.

“The study provides a barometer of employee engagement in the workplace, with results that might alarm and surprise many employers,” said Douglas J. Matthews, President and Chief Operating Officer at Right Management.

“Employees are clearly expressing their pent up frustration with how they have been treated through the downturn. While employers may have taken the necessary steps to streamline operations to remain viable, it appears many employees may have felt neglected in the process. The result is a disengaged and disgruntled workforce.”

Employee disengagement does not transpire overnight, it is a process that happens over time. Who is responsible for engaging employees? I see responsibility on the part of organization, the managers as well as the employee!

First and foremost, this starts with the culture of the organization. Is there constant focus on developing a culture which communicates consistent goals and objectives to all employees? This process begins by getting the management team on the same page to create a vision and mission in which all understand their role. Many organizations have mission and vision statements but:

  • They are just words on a wall
  • The employees do not understand the company’s business objectives
  • Employees do not understand how their position fits in the overall goal of the business
  • Communication within the organization decreases during turbulent times when it should be increasing

The mission and vision of an organization must be threaded through every communication and behavior of the leadership team. If the words are spoken, but the behaviors are incongruent with the mission, employees will believe the behaviors 100% of the time. Once the leadership understands their role in creating the culture, managers and supervisors need to understand how to cascade this information throughout the organization.

An employee needs consistent, quality feedback on an ongoing basis for them to understand their value to the organization. For this reason:

  • Has the leadership team developed behaviors for each person that is aligned with the company’s goals and objectives?
  • Is there an effective communication process to communicate the progress toward the business goal
  • Do managers understand how to coach employees in a manner that meets their needs and the requirements of the organization?
  • Are there ways to recognize and reward employees for their efforts?
  • Has the organization removed barriers to communication and led by example?

The culture needs to allow for employees to communicate openly and honestly regarding their needs and professional development requests. Lencioni (2005) found that “no quality or characteristic is more important than trust,” so for this reason, cultural change will take time.

As employees begin to experience a change in the culture, they may feel safer to change the way they choose to interact. Once a culture is defined and reinforced daily through leadership behaviors, it will be up to the employee to take a chance and alter the way they interrelate and look for opportunities to move the organization forward.

Reinforcement by senior managers will help employees to understand the new expectations for the workforce, and much like any relationship, it must be cared for and maintained over time.