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Treating the causes of disengagement, not just the symptoms

30th May 2017
Your employees are often the face of your business, meeting with customers, liaising with suppliers and making strategic sales and marketing decisions. What happens though, if those employees are disengaged from your business? According to a recent study only 25% of the UK workforce feel actively engaged in their job.

What’s the problem?

This clearly has an impact on the business as a whole, and when three quarters of staff are lacking in motivation, productivity takes a huge hit. A survey by the Hay Group believes disengaged staff cost the UK economy a whopping £360bn a year.

Understanding what your employees are disengaged from is the first step in solving the problem. Is it the overall business goals and strategy? Are they struggling to understand the business model? Jaded by false sales claims? Or is it the people and managers causing the problem? Are employees pitted against each other to the point of ruining relationships? Is management lacking leadership?

Communication is key

The next step is to focus on effective dialogue with staff; one way to avoid disengagement is to ensure that there’s a consistent framework of dialogue, both one on one and as a team.

Communication is vital in any business, but often it becomes a victim of corporate culture and loses the human touch over time. Companies need to know both what to communicate and how to do it in every different scenario; this will change from business to business and person to person. So rather than simply having quarterly review meetings which last a matter of minutes and have no real structure, develop a framework of regular communication with key points for discussion based on the person and their position. It’s important for this not to become a script though! Creating the right environment The workplace itself and the overall culture of a company is a significant aspect of employee engagement. Creating an environment with a crystal clear purpose, where every role’s parameters are clearly understood should be a basic of the culture. Ensuring that each employee has the necessary resources for success and a compelling focus on performance and development is absolutely essential for an engaged and motivated workforce.

The Gazing approach

Our three key things to consider when tacking the issue of employee engagement:

1. Think like House If you’ve ever watching Hugh Laurie in the series House, M.D., you’ll know what we mean. Rather than simply treating the symptoms, House looks at what the underlying cause that links them all could be. Don’t simply try to ‘fix’ disengaged employees – or worse, get rid of them! – find out where the disengagement is stemming from and solve that problem first.

2. Coaching is one solution Coaching is often the default when employees aren’t performing at their peak. It is certainly effective and will take into account many of the symptoms, however it isn’t suitable in all situations and it shouldn’t be used as a one-size-fits-all Band-Aid.

3. Dialogue not monologue This is often the problem with review meetings, they turn into a manager’s review of the employee and there is little opportunity for dialogue. Getting employees to talk can be akin to getting conversation out of a sullen teenager, however that line of communication can be vital in understanding why disengagement is occurring and the levels at which it is impacting the business.

Whilst phrases like ‘job satisfaction’ may be dismissed, employee engagement is a huge challenge for businesses and one which could give them a competitive advantage if approached correctly. The basis for sustainable engagement of employees comes down to two key components, overview and detail - a deliberate focus on building the elements of a high performing environment and focusing in detail on communications – minimising the risk of disengagement and increasing productivity and staff retention.

Martin Fairn, CEO, Gazing Performance Systems