Employee engagement is the best thing money can buy. But in order to truly benefit from your employees, you must actively contribute to their success. They must be motivated and feel connected to the company by shared values and goals; most of all, you must establish a collegial environment where they feel recognized and rewarded. If you support your employees’ happiness, your company’s productivity, proactivity, and innovation can soar. When they don’t feel that way, well… yikes.
The costs of employee disengagement can mount swiftly for everyone involved. This can result in practical and emotional impacts on the team, managerial time constraints and stress, expenses associated with increased turnover, and impacts on the employees themselves. Not only can disengagement create a toxic work environment, it can also make a dent in KPIs and the bottom line.
That dent can become a trench if you’re not careful. Disengagement is infectious, and there are proven and significant links between employee engagement and workplace productivity.
The highly-regarded polling company Gallup has been measuring engagement in the United States workforce since 2000. Its May 2020 report featured some surprisingly positive findings: employee engagement has actually risen in recent years, and reached a historic high of 34% despite the many challenges they faced throughout the year. However, “actively disengaged” workers—the truly unfulfilled, spreading unhappiness throughout the company—were at 13%, and 49% were considered “not engaged”. This latter group are not deeply miserable, nor are they committed and connected. They’re simply dialing it in, biding their time until a better opportunity comes along. So over half of the US workforce was found to be unengaged in their work, accompanied by a whole host of performance issues that arise as a result.
What are the costs of this disconnection? Employee disengagement means that they:
According to Gallup, such disengagement costs the US between $483 billion and $605 billion in lost productivity each year. The performance and behavioral issues of each employee, translated into dollars, cost 34% of their annual salary, i.e. $3,400 of every $10,000 they make.
Needless to say, the more quickly you can identify drops in productivity due to disengagement, the better. You don’t want to let an annual salary point go by without spotting and tackling this subtle, creeping problem. Think of employee disengagement as an infection in the veins of the company, requiring swift treatment to prevent it from spreading in and between teams.
One discontent employee can lower morale in their immediate team, whether this is through their mood or the harm they cause to good relationships. Disengaged employees make others feel they have to pick up the slack and work harder, creating an epidemic of resentment. This inevitably causes delays, with breakdowns in the speed and smoothness of task transference; finally, it creates costs related to absenteeism, whether health-related or otherwise.
You might notice someone in your workplace who is chronically late to arrive and early to leave, spending long periods chatting and distracting or gazing into space. They might be spending all of their time organizing work but doing very little of it, complaining rather than being solution-oriented, not replying to communications, being disrespectful, or failing to meet targets. These and other signs should be noticed and nipped in the bud before granting them the chance to do greater harm, and there are a number of ways to do so: