Sitting on the train the other day, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation from across the aisle. A smartly dressed young lady says, “All I want is to work for a company that actually listens to its employees.” Listening to her frustration with her new job was tough – more so because there are quite literally millions of people in the workplace that feel the exact same way.

As her conversation went on, it became clear that like so many people, she doesn’t feel remotely comfortable speaking with her manager, or even her coworkers, about the obstacles she feels are preventing her from doing her best work. Whilst she’d only started her job a few months ago, she stated she was already half wishing she could quit.

Ouch. This is painful – not only because this sort of situation is so common, but also because it’s entirely avoidable. There are no winners here. As an employee, she had quickly started to lose her excitement and motivation for the job she’d started with enthusiasm only a short time ago. She’s already on the slippery slope towards disengagement and considering her next move. Her employer is likely faced with being in the unenviable position of either funding the cost and disruption of finding replacement personnel or worse still, holding on to a disengaged employee.

No matter what size of organization, this can have a negative impact on the health, wealth and happiness of the business and everyone within it – but this is especially damaging in smaller businesses or startups who are usually reliant on a few key people to perform many, varied, tasks.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! High turnover and a number of other common personnel issues (which, let’s face it, none of us enjoy dealing with) can be stopped in their tracks when business owners and leaders recognize the importance of employee engagement and focus in on improving engagement levels in their organizations.

1. Festering resentment

When an employee is frustrated and doesn’t feel comfortable communicating why (without fear of retribution), those frustrations evolve into resentment that festers over time. Not only is that employee trying to work under a cloud of dissatisfaction, that dissatisfaction can spread like a virus through the workplace – and inevitably, to your customers. Emotions are contagious. One resentful employee can drain the positive energy from an entire office.

The engagement fix: Employees want to feel heard, so creating a safe space for them to air their grievances (confidentially and anonymously) goes a long way towards building your employee engagement solution. But it takes more than just listening. You have to be prepared to demonstrate that you’re listening by taking action. Follow through and show that you address grievances to the best of your ability – keeping communication open around the progress you’re making. If you do utilize a survey, make sure to also share report results.

2. Lack of trust, aka. a toxic environment of suspicion

As an employee, there are few things worse than feeling like your company is intentionally leaving you in the dark. And this can happen so easily when there isn’t a conscious effort by business owners and leaders to promote transparency. Lack of communication is the biggest issue most companies face that contributes to a lack of engagement, high turnover, low motivation, and low productivity.

The engagement fix: Schedule short meetings often to help your teams feel aligned with what’s going on – and be open about obstacles the business is facing and challenges ahead. Ask for feedback and suggestions, because the solutions to those challenges can most often be found in your own talent pool. Take the opportunity to acknowledge great ideas and contributions.

3. Inability to maintain a positive company culture

According to the Fast Company article “6 Signs Your Company’s Culture Stinks,” signs of a negative company culture include gossip, employees that don’t relate to each other outside of the office, employees who aren’t excited to come to work each day, poor role modeling by leaders, and the worst: Managers (and we would argue business owners) who aren’t willing to practice what they preach. Porch CEO Matt Ehrlichman says it best: “The moment an employee stops believing in the company and taking pride in their job significance, your castle will fall.”

The engagement fix: Company culture starts from the top down, which is why we work with business owners and leaders that walk the talk. This, combined with taking action based on confidential feedback from employees and a purpose that everyone in the business can rally around, very quickly creates a positive company culture that becomes self-multiplying.

4. Lackluster customer service

Customer service that is lackluster, uninspired and run by the book, quite simply doesn’t cut it with consumers anymore. They both want and expect more. With competition coming out of the woodwork, companies that go above and beyond for their customers are one step closer to ensuring their survival.

The engagement fix: We’ve seen nothing short of magic happen when employees are engaged. The simple fact is that when employees are engaged at work, they’re also engaged with customers (and with life in general). Part of engagement is empowering your employees to do their best work. When your employees know they can go above and beyond for your clients in fresh and creative ways, they will.

5. Fractious teams

It may seem like a cliché but we all know there really is an “I” in team. Teams are made up of individuals, and individual contributions are vitally important. But you don’t want each person in your office working solo all the time, or worse, bickering amongst themselves. You’ll lose out on the creative problem solving that can only happen when multiple heads come together. Team building exercises can be great – but their impact can be short-lived – because often all they’re doing is placing a temporary band-aid over festering problems.

The engagement fix: When teams are aligned around an Engaged Purpose and communication flows freely, work-related frustrations almost disappear (we have testimony after testimony from our clients that show this approach working in real life).

6. Lack of clarity around what needs fixing

It’s interesting that most of Engagement Multiplier’s clients begin their engagement journeys with an idea of what they’d like to fix. But often, after they conduct their first survey, their ideas change. They uncover areas to improve they didn’t even know they had, and from there, they make rapid progress towards higher engagement, higher employee satisfaction, and higher performance all around. And what’s really powerful is that it’s incredibly rare that creating these outcomes requires big investments of time or money, it’s often small, manageable solutions that create the biggest impact and sense of momentum.

The engagement fix: Engagement isn’t about running an annual survey. It requires regular tracking and monitoring. Once you get some momentum started, then keep it going. Why would you do anything else? Keep in mind as you build action plans from your feedback that there is a huge difference when it comes to employee engagement vs employee satisfaction and build accordingly.

Do you suffer from any of these?

  1. Underperforming employees (because they’re confused)
  2. Underperforming employees (because they don’t care)
  3. Hiring the wrong people in the first place
  4. Getting bypassed by top talent
  5. Inability to keep your best people

In our next post, we’ll go into depth on how these headaches happen, and how you can eliminate them.
Click here to read about 5 more causes and cures for disengagement