This post was also a contributed guest post for Entrepreneurs Organization Raleigh Durham on August 21, 2020.
Disengaged employees are defined as employees who aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.
Disengaged at work, they not only have a negative influence on the organization, they can actually cause significant harm to it by affecting client satisfaction, driving away potential business, and harming previously solid customer relationships, not to mention the harmful and draining effects on the employee’s teammates which in turn produces negative effects for the company.
Employee disengagement is a challenge under normal circumstances, but even more so during challenging times, such as a global pandemic. Employees are often feeling overwhelmed struggling to balance work, home, schooling or overseeing the virtue schooling of their children, isolation, and the fear and anxiety caused by a pandemic.
To successfully deal with disengagement at work, here’s a look at what can cause employee disengagement and what can be done about it or to prevent it in the first place.
The #1 expectation from employees is that their employers communicate effectively. In fact, employees are 12x more likely to be engaged when they are communicated with consistently and with clarity (Alight Research). This is even truer during times of crisis. To cut down on misinformation and ensure employees don’t feel left in the dark, it is important for leaders to communicate early, often, and transparently. Recommended employee check-ins include:
- Weekly Team Check-Ins – The opportunity for team members to connect with each other and for the leader to evaluate how/if tasks are being accomplished and goals are being met, as well as to troubleshoot as needed.
- One-on-One Check-Ins – Ask how they employee is doing, if they need anything to assist them with their work, what stresses they’re dealing with, wins they’re having, how you can best support them, etc. This offers encouragement, provides stability, and helps employees’ work and focus more effectively.
- “All Hands” Check-Ins – These “all staff” meetings provide overall updates on company health and numbers, encouragement regarding projects, appreciation for their contributions, employee recognitions, new business updates, etc.
Clearly Defined Direction
It is important to provide employees with a clear mission and purpose to keep them motivated and aligned, especially during a crisis. Leaders should not hesitate to adjust strategy, expectations, and/or goals as needed. Any changes and/or expectations should be clearly and regularly communicated to employees.
Employees of the twenty-first century want transparency, especially during challenging times. This includes having contact with senior leadership, being kept in the loop about developments and goals, and so on. When times are difficult, employees look to a strong and focused leadership for a crisis management plan and to provide confidence that there is a way forward that the employee can contribute to.
Employees who feel valued will continue to work hard to impress leadership. Those who are not recognized for their contribution will eventually stop trying. During COVID-19, employee recognition provides an especially meaningful way to demonstrate that whether they are working in the office or at home, leadership cares about them, their wellbeing, and their contributions.
During times of crisis, the thinking should be “people first.” Leaders should convey that they are sensitive to the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has on employees’ lives and work. When checking in with your team one-on-one, lead with empathy, strive for flexibility, and listen well to prioritize health and wellbeing. Be intentional about providing opportunities for employees to approach you with their needs and concerns. The result is that for most employees, support and understanding will help alleviate stress allowing for continued productivity and dedicated engagement with their work and the organization.
The Bottom Line
Employee disengagement can cost your company more than you think, and not just financially. The good news is that improved engagement in the workplace provides a variety of benefits, including improved productivity, lower turnover rates, reduced absenteeism, improved workplace safety, and more.
During a crisis, make it a point to provide an anchor and reinforce what’s not changing so that a much-needed sense of stability can help keep your employees engaged when times are especially difficult.
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For assistance with employee disengagement or other guidance in the workplace, contact Close HR Connections.