What Causes Employee Disengagement?

March 29, 2017 Andrew Larsen

Perks, training meetings, and activities intended to boost employee engagement may end up doing the opposite if business leaders don’t understand the cause of employee dissatisfaction. Instead, these programs could lead to burnout and ultimately a high turnover rate. Rather than wasting efforts on boosting engagement, take a moment to consider why employees may be struggling with their work. Resolving the root cause of problems will allow employee relations strategies to be more effective than band-aid solutions.

Respect in the workplace
Respect must be a two-way street between employees and managers. When either party isn’t feeling respected, disengagement is just around the bend. 

The best way to diagnose the situation is by listening to, and acting on employee and manager feedback. If word around the water cooler indicates there could be dissatisfaction, conduct an employee survey to get a better idea of what the issues are. With this information, HR can create solutions to improve morale. Whether it’s specific manager training, or changes to dress code, or something else altogether, your efforts will be targeted and more effective. 

According to Custom Insights, a company that creates employee surveys and other employee engagement tools, “poor relationships between employees and their managers are a leading cause, if not the leading cause, of employee disengagement.” Their surveys have shown that five out of ten reasons for employee disengagement are directly linked to manager-employee relations. For HR leaders who are unsure of the cause of employee disengagement, this might be a good place to start.

Company culture
There is a shift in the way employees view organizations. In the past, employees were loyal to their organizations, sometimes before their own personal beliefs. Now employees bring their own values into the workplace and these can clash with company values. For companies that haven’t begun to establish their corporate culture, this means someone else might be dictating it for you. This bottom up approach is rarely acceptable to the majority of employees and often leads to dissatisfaction.

Employees want to support an organization whose values they share. Take the time to review your company values and culture to discover if it needs altering. One solution could be implementing a process to inform potential new hires of the company’s culture to see if candidates agree with it before an offer is made.

The blind leading the blind
Ideally, HR should be the first to notice symptoms of a disengaged workforce. Just as a doctor has equipment and processes to diagnose an illness, so should HR. Data is an HR department's diagnostic tool. Look at absenteeism and turnover rates, and analyze feedback from surveys. The information may help you root out the cause of employee dissatisfaction. If you’re not using data to drive your employee engagement strategies, your efforts could be nothing more than shots in the dark.

The reasons for disengagement are numerous and the solutions to solve it are infinitely more so. Programs and perks will be more effective at improving employee engagement when HR can first diagnose the causes, then think of creative solutions to solve them.


About the Author

Andrew Larsen

Andrew is the Marketing Communications Specialist for Zuman, the one solution for HR, payroll, and benefits administration that supports growing small to midsize businesses.

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