Five Ways To Deal With Disengagement

Dr. Ernesto Marinelli

Fast-paced, dynamic, innovative – we come across these words every day. To keep up with the enormous speed and innovation in today’s business environment, it is crucial to build a talented, diverse, and efficient workforce.

Along with talent attraction and retention, employee engagement has become a major challenge for many businesses. It is essential for ensuring competitiveness and growth. Research reveals that employee engagement has a positive impact on performance and is key to competitive advantage.

Employee disengagement, however, has the opposite effect. Revealed through tardiness, absenteeism, and general lack of enthusiasm, it results in lost productivity, higher turnover, and disproportionately high business costs. In fact, $11 billion USD are lost annually due to employee turnover.

According to Gallup, which has tracked employee engagement for the past 15 years, only 13% of the workforce worldwide is engaged.

Numbers like these make me wonder: What drives employee disengagement? How can we in HR deal best with disengagement?

A lack of employee engagement often stems from poor relationships with direct managers as well as a lack of confidence in senior management. Employees do not quit companies; they quit the people leading them.

No doubt, businesses need to invest in employee engagement if they want to remain successful. Here are five suggestions on how to build an “all-in” workforce:

1. Encourage, and be open to, continuous feedback

Feedback is a valuable tool for performance improvement and is crucial for everyone’s development. Praising an employee for a job well done is just as important as pointing out where there is room for improvement. Fostering ongoing feedback not only helps employees understand their manager’s preferences, but it also enables managers to identify key strengths and weaknesses of employees.

This also works the other way around – managers must be open for feedback. This shows that they care about others’ opinions and are committed to becoming better at what they do.

2. Give credit to your employees, and show appreciation

According to philosopher William James, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”

People work best when they receive credit for the work they have done. They tend to be more ambitious, confident, and committed to business success. Not giving credit easily leads to the opposite reaction: dissatisfaction and unhappiness, resulting in disengagement and lower performance. Managers must show appreciation.

3. Empower employees and foster a culture of trust

Today’s fast-paced business environment is shaped by digital disruption, and it is extremely important for businesses to be flexible and agile. Hierarchical thinking and complex communication channels are still preventing businesses from agility. It is time to empower employees, and show confidence in them and what they are capable of. Research shows that empowering employees has a positive impact on performance and engagement. The more employees feel that their managers trust what they do and how they work, the more engaged they become in their work and their employer. Approaching employees like this makes working more fun and encourages strong employee-manager connections.

4. Encourage succession management and career development

Large numbers of disengaged employees claim insufficient development opportunities as a major issue. Regular one-on-one meetings and career discussions are often considered infeasible due to a lack of time, but managers need to make time for both. It is their duty to make people successful and help them achieve their full potential. In doing so, managers build relationships and prevent employees from disengagement and leaving the company. Keep this in mind: You spend so much time finding great people, it’s worth helping them grow to the best they can be.

5. Foster employee connectedness and collaboration

Working at an international company with employees all around the globe raises the necessity to actively encourage ongoing collaboration. This is important not only for different locations, but also different business areas. Bringing in different people with different strengths and expertise into a project raises levels of creativity, innovativeness, and productivity and results in achieving goals quicker. This benefits managers as well as employees, as it results in higher engagement and satisfaction.

Building an engaged, all-in workforce is crucial to success as a leader as well as the overall business. Start caring! Start acting!

Learn more about how HR can run live and foster a highly engaged workforce.

Dr. Ernesto Marinelli

About Dr. Ernesto Marinelli

Ernesto has over 15 of human resources experience. He is currently the Senior Vice President for Human Resources for SAP Europe, Middle East and Africa supporting his organization in the digital transformation. Passionate about transformation and the impact of leadership on people, Ernesto is a seasoned, goal-oriented global HR senior executive with broad experience in supporting the sales and services organization, as well as development groups. Accustomed to work in an international environment, Ernesto is strong in transformational work and possesses in-depth expertise in all relevant HR processes with a strong ability in creating long-term partnerships. He speaks Italian and German, is fluent in English and has good knowledge of French and Spanish. He joined SAP in 2005 as a recruiter and had several roles within the HRBP organization. Ernesto earned a Master Degree in General Linguistics and a PhD in German Linguistics at the University of Würzburg in Germany.