Why teams are disengaged and proven ways to engage them

There could always be situations where managers will encounter disengaged employees and rather than giving up on them, there are ways to engage them

Sapience Analytics
Updated: Aug 20, 2015 07:35:03 AM UTC

Image: Shutterstock

Gallup study on employee engagement showed that as of 2012, 32% of employed Indians are actively disengaged, and 60% are not engaged.

The old proverb says: “Employees join great companies but leave bad bosses.” It can happen with anyone, even with the most competent leaders. Employees might be physically present but might have quit mentally, they might lack motivation and not contribute to the growth of the organisation. Demotivated employees can be very frustrating to managers. They take up a lot of bandwidth and attention away from core business for the managers. One of the simple ways to deal with it is to hire self-motivated employees who are engaged with the work and align with organisational values. But we don’t live in an ideal world. There could always be situations where managers will encounter disengaged employees and rather than giving up on them, there are ways to engage them.

I feel that great employee engagement is defined by three key drivers aligning well together. disengaged_employee

The company’s vision cannot stay in the ‘About Us’ section of the website. It needs to be translated into day-to-day activities and overall policies and structure of the organisation. Secondly, the employee’s personal vision about what he/she wants to achieve and accomplish must align with the company’s overall vision. The third and most important thing is employee empowerment. The employee should feel empowered to make decisions, be responsible for his/her actions and achieve successes.

Some of the prominent reasons why employees get disengaged are:

1:  Employees are generally unaware or kept in dark about the overall vision and roadmap of the company. Developing a feature in the product or working on a particular module of the project cannot be a compelling driver for employees to enjoy and appreciate their work. They should be able to align their work with the organisation’s overall roadmap and vision. Only then will they be able to relate to how they are contributing to the overall growth of the organisation.

2: Many a times, managers, knowing or unknowingly, play the favouritism game. A lot of work gets automatically allocated to the star performers and the junior staff or newcomers get neglected. They never get any opportunity to work on something challenging and thereby prove their capabilities.

3: Past performance of the employees is often taken as the conclusive evidence of their capabilities. It could happen that some employees never get a chance to showcase their abilities and full potential and therefore are deprived of new opportunities. Over a period, people also learn new skills and improve their capabilities, which make them eligible for better opportunities. But the managers always have the old picture of the employees in their mind and therefore they are not considered for the new responsibilities.

So what can you, as a manger or leader, do to re-engage the disengaged team members?

1: Help them grow, watch them grow: You need to ensure that you give attention to all the members of the team, and not just the star performers. Give opportunity to new members and help them grow. There could be failures, but you can always have some mitigation plan to handle that.

2: Encourage them to speak up and contribute: You should make it clear to your team members that if they want to take up new challenges and take up more responsibilities, they need to speak up and they need to show their willingness to contribute. This will also help instil the culture of openness, communication and transparency in the team and encourage the habit of taking initiatives.

3: Lead and guide, not micromanage: There is a very thin line between giving guidance and micromanaging. In an attempt to get things done faster, many managers use their knowledge and experience and get into problem-solving mode themselves. While it might help in getting things done faster, it will not help the employees learn themselves. You could simply offer some pointers and let the team members explore various options to solve the problem on their own. This will give them the feeling of achievement once they solve the problem and will also encourage them to think on their own, instead of simply coming to you with problems. One of my managers always used to tell me: Whenever you have a problem, come to me only when you have three possible solutions. That worked brilliantly for me because I used to do a lot of thinking about solutions before going to him. This also helped me in growing confident.

4: Raise the bar, and challenge the creative genius of the team:  Whenever you see that your team is able to achieve their tasks easily and within time, you should know that it’s time to raise the bar. Challenge them to do more, take up more responsibility, take up new things and do something which will challenge their creative genius.  This will keep them motivated and give them a feeling that they have learned something new, have gone beyond their comfort zone and have reached new heights.

When people bring their best and vibrant energy to work, and want to excel at what they do, they will be totally engaged. These are some very simple steps which managers can take to show genuine care and honest interest in the employees’ careers which can engage them with the organisation.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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