Laura Iñiguez, Content Manager at Hirebook
Laura is a content and social media strategist with deep experience in Employee Engagement, People Management, and Culture. She works with Hirebook to bring their innovative best practices to life through content, videos, and webinars seen by thousands around the globe.
Pub: September 30 2021
Upd: November 14 2022
Being able to identify disengaged employees is something that every manager should be able to do, and even excel at. Unfortunately, sometimes it isn’t easy to spot them until it is too late.
Starting a new job is like starting a new adventure, filled with nervousness and excitement, new employees try to give their all to this new beginning and make the best of it. New hires bring their A-game to the table, and it’s refreshing to see them work with such enthusiasm.
But somewhere along the way, the excitement dissipates and the adventure that seemed so promising doesn’t feel as appealing anymore. You notice their performance is somewhat mediocre, not too bad but also not as great as before. They begin to blend in the back and suddenly they just don’t stand out… We’re sorry to tell you this, but that sounds like a disengaged employee (if there’s just one).
One thing is for certain, low employee engagement rates hurt the entire organization, and not just financially. One single disengaged employee can lower the morale of an entire team! And this results in poor outcomes, low productivity, employee turnover... not to mention a massive punch on company culture.
According to Gallup, there are three types of employees when it comes to engagement: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged employees. Engaged employees are easy to identify, they have good numbers, a positive attitude, etc. Not engaged employees cover around 50% of the workforce, and are usually silent, with steady performance, staying away from the spotlight for either positive or negative reasons. And the actively disengaged employees show the most obvious signs like absenteeism, bad attitude, low energy, missing deadlines, frequent use of social media, etc.
In this report by Gallup, they found out that only 15% of employees are engaged at work, this means that the majority of your workforce is conformed by actively disengaged employees. Scary, right?
Every company struggles with disengaged employees, but not every manager knows how low or high employee engagement is within their team. Look beyond the obvious signs and start paying attention to the little details that will let you know when an employee is feeling unmotivated so you can do something before they become fully disengaged.
Quality of Work is Average
If you notice an employee that’s not showing the same amount of passion or the quality of their performance is somewhat lower, they’re either going through something personal that’s preventing them from performing their best, or they’re starting to feel disengaged. Everyone has bad days every now and then, and we should keep in mind that it’s unlikely to be outstandingly productive 100% of the time.
A disengaged employee often will appear to be meeting their goals and completing their tasks, but even good work can be a red flag. Employees may feel unchallenged or that their work has become easy, but they keep “doing a good job” because they’re responsible and they can pay their bills. They just clock out at the end of the day and repeat the same tasks the next day, delivering the same good results with no extra motivation for doing a better job.
Reporting what you consider “good outcomes” is not an indicator of high employee engagement. Try to have honest conversations with your employees and ask for their feedback, ask them how they feel about the job and their tasks. Together you can come up with a professional or personal development plan that’ll help them to keep motivated.
We’ve often talked about how having breaks improves productivity, and it’s important to give our brains a break to avoid burnout. When employee engagement is high, employees work hard to make their superiors proud and to get a sense of satisfaction, they’re motivated by their tasks and sometimes have to be forced into taking breaks.
But what if an employee abuses those breaks both in frequency and duration? That could mean that they are disengaged. When employees stop caring, it’s not strange to see them taking longer lunch breaks, visiting the vending machine more often, and spending more time refilling their coffee. They can also increase toxic behaviors like smoking and gossiping negatively. Unfortunately, sometimes these behaviors can rub onto other colleagues, and they start feeling like they should probably take longer breaks too, or engage in office gossip that won’t do anyone any good.
This is why an open communication policy is crucial in every team. Your team members should feel like they can approach you when they feel uncomfortable or if they need any help, and not wait until the next performance review to see what is working and what is not.
Lack of Initiative and Avoiding Challenges
We notice when employee engagement is high, that our employees have an appetite to push themselves forward and reach professional goals, helping the organization to achieve success and cooperate with company growth.
Disengaged employees are usually not interested in taking over new responsibilities, accepting new challenges, or learning new skills. And it’s not just because they stopped caring about the organization, actively disengaged and unmotivated employees aren’t interested in progressing.
Engaged employees also tend to share articles or initiatives that seem interesting, in the hopes of trying out new things to improve processes and performance, but disengaged employees lack initiative and curiosity and just try to meet the minimum requirements to keep out of trouble.
If you as a superior try to encourage learning methods and career growth opportunities and you notice a lack of enthusiasm, it’s time to review your employee engagement levels.
Change in their Routine
Engaged employees usually develop a routine when it comes to their activities and task completion. You know who you can count on to meet their deadlines and respond to your queries fast enough.
If you spot a change from this routine like falling out on deadlines or delivering work with errors in it, you should maybe take a closer look at what’s going on. Even if their disengagement is caused by an external factor and has nothing to do with their job or the organization, changes in your employees’ routines is something worth taking a deeper look into.
Ok, not everyone has to be positive all the time and we know there are different personalities among our employees. But it’s quite noticeable when an employee doesn’t feel that they’re getting the reward and recognition they deserve and start showcasing a negative attitude towards the business.
This can also happen when a company doesn’t prioritize its employees’ wellbeing. Keeping employees engaged is an ongoing process, it doesn’t stop once you have reported high employee engagement. If you let this slip, your employees will let you know either with not the best results or with a negative attitude.
In order to improve employee engagement, you must first know what has your employees feeling demotivated and uncommitted at work. Even if you don’t see notice these signs at first, it’s better to get ahead of things and work on employee engagement constantly to avoid having to deal with disengaged employees.
Make sure you’re having consistent career conversations and getting feedback about what’s working for your team or not working. Learn how you can continue to support them in their career goals. With Hirebook’s check-in and 1-on-1 features, you are equipped with the tools you need to not only keep performance and engagement high but to help you develop substantial learning and development strategies to retain and attract top talent.