Varied Engagement and What to Do about It

CBS Money Watch on Bnet recently featured an article on what to do if you hate your job. Looking at why people are “dissatisfied” with their jobs, the author cites: “They don’t feel like they are contributing to anything meaningful, they aren’t passionate about what they do, and they don’t feel like their best talents are being utilized.”

That’s a fairly accurate summary of why employees are disengaged in today's workplace. Why should management care, though, as long as the work is getting done? Recent Gallup findings offer a strong argument as to why you should:
“In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.5:1. In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is near 8:1. Actively disengaged employees erode an organization's bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.”
Unfortunately the Money Watch article offered only two solutions for the dissatisfied employee: find a new job or “use your other 8 hours” to do what you care about. From the manager point of view, that second option is almost worst than the first as it encourages the employee to disengage even more while at work.

So what should managers and company leadership do to become world-class organizations and recover that lost productivity? Target the reasons for dissatisfaction (lack of meaning, passion and use of talents) with strategic employee recognition whereby sincere, frequent recognition of effort is more than a "thanks" but specifically tells a person: "I really appreciate what you did on project X. Your work helped us achieve Y, which is going to make meeting our strategic objective Z much easier. Keep it up!"

Take this approach and you've just positively shown the employee how their work is meaningful and give them some indication of the path the company is following. Even if their talents aren't being fully utilized at the moment, at least they're being appreciated!

3 comment(s):

At February 23, 2010 1:51 AM, Robert said...

Hi there. Thanks for linking to my MoneyWatch column. I must disagree with your assessment, however. The second option, to use the other 8 hours, will absolutely not further disengage the employee. In fact, it should have the opposite effect. I've done a tremendous amount of research into this subject and the studies show there can be positive spillover from life to work. I'll be posting a white paper on this very concept shortly.

At February 23, 2010 4:26 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Hi, Robert. I look forward to reading your white paper. I'm happy to do a follow up post on the study.

I see your point. We see a strong positive spillover effect as well in our work when recognition recipients are given the option to choose to share their rewards with family members or close friends. Anything that strengthens relationships outside of work also strengthens employee attitudes towards their work.

At February 23, 2010 7:42 PM, Robert said...

Thanks for keeping an open mind! This is a new field of research, and many companies are fearful to get involved in their employees' other 8 hours, but those who are get maximum value and results from employees. Would love your feedback on the white paper once I finish it . . . I just need a few more of the other 8 hours!