Guest Post: Fixing the Disengagement Problem

A few months ago, I posted a guest blog entry from Erin Osterhaus, HR Analyst at Software Advice. Today, I’m sharing another equally practical article that she recently wrote on overcoming employee disengagement. Enjoy.
According to a recent Gallup poll, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies about $500 billion a year. And with Gallup also reporting that nearly 20 percent of the workforce is disengaged, employers have quite a big problem to fix.

Software Advice, a resource for talent management software comparison, interviewed Ruth Ross, an employee engagement expert and former Wells Fargo HR executive, to learn how to fix and prevent disengagement. See Ross’ tips and advice below and read the full interview here.

Listen and Observe
In the article, Ross recommends having what she calls a “stay conversation,” with employees at least once a year. She notes that it is crucial not to identify this conversation as an engagement exercise, or to slap a “disengagement” label on any employee. Rather, the conversation should be an opportunity for the employee to let their guard down and really let their employer know how they feel about their work. After all, you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

Below are some questions Ross has used in the past to prompt a disengaged employee to open up :
– If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
– Do you feel like the work you do is meaningful? Why or why not?
– What is on your wish list for an enhanced role in this company?

Fix the Obstacles
After pinpointing any issues and concerns that the employee may have, you should focus on next steps. Ross suggests making a list of three simple steps you, as the manager, can do to help them to re-engage. For instance, if you’re speaking with an employee who is a phone representative in a call center, their eyes might light up when you talk to them about improving the client experience. Obviously, it’s something they’re passionate about, so why not suggest they work on a task force to explore ways to enhance that experience?

Remember, disengagement doesn’t discriminate and it can affect any employee (at any level). Make the “stay conversation” a routine exercise to ensure you keep your employees engaged. In the process, you might just improve your employees’ professional lives, as well as improve your company’s bottom line. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.