Disengaged Team

There is almost always a palpable sense of fear when an organization decides to conduct an employee engagement survey for the first time. What if my employees are unhappy with the leadership of the organization? What if my employees feel under compensated or overworked? Employee engagement surveys, if developed appropriately, should assess a host of different areas across an organization, including leadership effectiveness, career development opportunities, work-life balance, and job design. Survey results provide the leadership team and HR with a sense of how engaged employees are and where the organization is falling short in relation to employee expectations.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, The Conference Board of Canada defines employee engagement as “a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for their job, organization and manager that in turn influences them to apply additional discretionary effort to their work.” In Atlantic Canada, where worker retention is a point of particular concern, ensuring employees are satisfied and engaged at your organization should be a key aspect of your retention strategy.

Employee engagement surveys can serve as an indispensible base line assessment of your organization. You may find you are pleasantly surprised by the areas in which the company is excelling. Employee engagement surveys take the pulse of the organization and let you know what illnesses are festering, if any, in your organization. This can be an uncomfortable door to open but not taking the pulse of the organization doesn’t mean the issues aren’t there. The literature on employee engagement has tied it to so many bottom-line factors for an organization that one could easily argue that the riskier move is to ignore it. Employee engagement has been linked to increased organizational commitment, increased productivity, increased profitability, decreased “water cooler” negativity and a host of other factors.  

What better way to help inform your human resources strategy than by taking the pulse of the organization and using the objective results to focus your attention on the areas of concern for your employees, thereby getting a more engaged and productive workforce.

Five key signs to watch for that indicate your organization may be struggling with low employee engagement:

  1. High Turnover. Do you have a high number of employees exiting the organization within the first year or two of their tenure? This is often a sign that employees are unsatisfied or unengaged due to something in the organization.
  2. High Absenteeism. We have all held a job at one point or another throughout our careers that made us dread heading to work each morning. Much like with high turnover, if you find your employees are taking a substantial number of sick days it is likely something is making them want to stay home rather than go to work.
  3. Negativity. Can you sense a certain degree of negativity around the office? Most work conflicts aren’t caused by personality differences. If the “water cooler” talk often involves malicious gossiping or if innovations and changes are met with extreme negativity, chances are you may have issues stemming from one or more factors of employee engagement.
  4. Slow Work Pace. An apparent lack of motivation from employees can be a clear sign that your employees aren’t engaged. A slow work pace can be an indicator that employees don’t feel their hard work is being rewarded or don’t have a clear sense of where the organization is going and what their role is in achieving the organizational objectives.
  5. Lack of Communication. Do employees in departments of your organization communicate with employees in other interdependent departments? A lack of communication often signifies that employees don’t feel safe openly voicing their concerns and suggestions; this is one situation in which the old saying “no news is good news” does not apply.

Research suggests disengaged employees have been estimated to cost US organizations between $450 and $550 billion dollars a year in lost productivity. Given that more Canadian employees (70%) than US employees (52%) report that they are not engaged at work we can estimate that the costs for Canadian organizations would be significant. With bottom-line impacts like this, employee engagement is a force with which to drive business outcomes.

How can your organization improve engagement? The answer will be different for every organization, but identifying a remedy begins with an examination of the underlying causes, and this requires input from your employees.

By: Ashley Leopold, Alumna, Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette