Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Handle Disengaged Employees

Think about how you feel when you’re not excited about a project, task or obligation, especially if you don’t feel connected to the purpose or outcome. How much energy do you put into the effort? How much of yourself do you invest? How much do you actually care? Now ask yourself: Is this how you want your employees to feel about your company?

Disconnected employees can inflict significant damage to companies of any size, but the impact can be especially profound to a small business where the personal touch is a large part of its appeal. Putting it simply, notes author and speaker David Zinger, if you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to instill a strong sense of connection in your employees. “Connected employees care about the work and the organization. They care about maintaining customers, about the results and getting the job done right. So, if you want to retain your customers, you need to treat your employees like you want them to treat your customers.”

It’s not just customer retention that can be negatively impacted. Sales and revenue can begin to drop, and inventory or supplies (even cash) may be lost to pilfering, and wasteful behavior connected to time or resources may increase—it’s a laundry list of negatives that small business owners definitely want to avoid. Although Zinger believes that ultimately the employee is responsible for his or her level of engagement, the organization is accountable for its efforts, which can support or undermine the connection employees feel to the business.

How do you ensure you’re doing your part?
  • Make the right hire. Disengagement can start at the hiring process, so take pains to ensure the candidate understands the job, and has the right skills and attitude for the position. Remember, a singular disgruntled employee can infect others.
  • Be present and engaged yourself. Don’t hide in your office, walk around and make the effort to get to know your employees, their interests and concerns.
  • Ask questions. Try to view things from employees’ perspectives and ask questions, such as: What is it like to work here? Use their responses as opportunities for discussion.
Establishing an environment where employees feel safe and where they have trust is essential, according to Zinger. Without it, gaining true insights will be a difficult task. And it’s not enough to just ask the question; you need to listen and respond, since disengagement can also result from employees not feeling heard. “It’s important to understand that disengagement isn’t a punishable offense, it’s an opportunity for a conversation. The important thing is to integrate engagement into how you work, lead and manage. It’s less about having the answers and more about asking the questions.”

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