How to Help Disengaged Employees

Most employees become disengaged at some point in their careers. Employee engagement means an employee feels “fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.” Back in 1900s, people used to talk about “employee morale,” which defined as the job satisfaction, outlook, and feelings of well-being an employee has within a workplace setting.  But later, they came up with the new term: Employee Engagement.


Engagement and high performance are directly related. It’s quite clear that managers should be very concerned about a waste of time, effort and resources in their organizations. Having disengaged employees can cause serious problems in your organization and if the issue is ignored, it can lead to major problems in company performance. If people are not engaged, how can managers attain those business objectives that are critical to improving organizational performance?  


The Gallup Management Journal publishes a semi-annual Employment Engagement Index, which indicates that:

  • Only 29% of employees are truly “engaged.” 54% falls into the “not engaged” category, while 17% of employees are “actively disengaged.”
  • The lower productivity of actively disengaged workers costs the U.S. economy about $300 billion a year.

Should leaders be concerned about these findings? The answer is YES. An article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology concluded that “employee satisfaction and engagement are related to meaningful business outcomes at a magnitude that is important to many organizations.”


New Century Financial Corporation, a U.S. specialty mortgage banking company, found that account executives in the wholesale division who were actively disengaged produced 28 percent less revenue than their colleagues who were engaged. Furthermore, those not engaged generated 23 percent less revenue than their engaged counterparts.


So what solutions can leaders take to make employees want to give it their best?

Opening the lines of communication, making expectations clear and rewarding high performance can be the answer.

If you have disengaged employees who seem withdrawn or show little interest in their work, go talk to them one by one about their goals, their progress, as well as what your expectations are and what types of feedback they can expect. Try to understand their perspectives. Just telling them their work hours and goals will not let you know how to best motivate them. Opening communication helps you get employees involved in the company so that they enjoy coming to work.


An important rule of management is making expectations clear. Use employee scheduling software and appointment room scheduling software so everyone can access upcoming schedules. Let them know what your short range and long range company goals are. Be clear about the goals you set for them. And absolutely let them know how they can achieve those goals. Giving steps helps them to make the goals realistic and attainable. Clear expectations can lead to employees wanting to be more engaged.


Employees need to feel that their contributions are valuable.  Give employees tasks that fit their current skill set, motivate them to work harder, and take advantage of their ability to develop skills. Then make sure to compliment them on a job well done. For example, if an employee is very good at communicating with others, you can assign them tasks working with customers. Then you can point out ways in which they can improve customer relations and how that helps the company.

After open communication and clearly stating your expectation, you also need to use management strategies with reward and recognition. A software program tracking employee contributions and performance can help you better understand what is really going on in your company. 

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