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How to Re-engage Disillusioned Employees

May 06, 2021 Employee Experience
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Employee engagement remains a challenge for many employers. The consequences are clear. Disengaged workers are less productive, potentially harmful to team collaboration and more likely to leave the company. Recent research by Zenefits, an employee benefits technology platform, showed that 63% of companies say that retaining employees is often harder than hiring them.

The question is what can be done about it. The answer is straightforward: Look at how you are engaging employees and find ways to make your company culture more appealing. 

To engage employees, find out what motivates them and then tailor rewards and workplace policies accordingly. Here's what some workplace experts had to say about workplace engagement and how to re-engage employees who might be prone to quit or leave your company. 

The Telltale Signs of Workplace Disillusionment 

There are four signs that you're dealing with a disengaged employee, said Ben Lamarche, general manager at Lock Search Group, an executive search firm based in Toronto. They include:

  • Tumbling productivity: The most prominent sign that an employee is not 'with it' is decreased productivity. Disillusioned employees might begin to miss deadlines, ask for more time off or call in sick more often, do less work or deliver substandard work.  
  • More complaints: Employees who are no longer engaged with their work will find anything and everything to complain about. Their complaints could be legitimate, but their chosen mode of communication might be unsuitable, which calls for a solid talk rather than paying attention to office gossip. 
  • Burnout: An employee could be burned out because they are stretched thin and overwhelmed with work or unmotivated. Either way, symptoms of burnout are never a good thing and they signify underlying issues that are affecting the employee. 
  • Less advocacy: A disengaged employee may adopt behavior and an attitude that contradicts the workplace culture. For example, if collaboration is a big aspect of the organization's culture, they may begin to scoff at this concept or intentionally isolate. 

Related Article: Improving Employee Engagement in the Enterprise

Tips for Re-engaging Disillusioned Employees

Identifying the underlying factors is critical. Companies need to find out what's really driving the disengagement in order to address it. Here are some tips on how to engage with disengaged employees:

Spot Symptoms Early

Luckily, many of the problems related to lack of engagement can be spotted early on, making it relatively easy to correct course. Vladimir Stepuro, HR manager at Austin, TX.-based sofware development firm ScienceSoft, said there are basic steps to spot the symptoms of disenagement.

"Conducting regular job satisfaction surveys and manager-subordinate one-to-ones is a great way to identify disillusionment signals promptly, define their causes and possible solutions," he said.

Identify the Reasons Behind Lack of Engagement

Sometimes managers forget to ask employees about the reasons behind an attitude shift and only act on the symptoms of disengagement, rather than the cause. This may seem like a difficult task but it's not impossible. Once you've identified the root cause of the employee's disengagement and addressed that problem, they will be more likely to become engaged again.

Build a Listen-first Approach

While this particular point may be easier to implement for smaller teams working under the same roof, having a listen-first approach goes a long way and helps build a stronger company culture in the long run. "Create a culture of inclusion and recognition," said Orit Kendal, head of people and culture at New York City-based SmartLinx, workforce management software company. "If you see someone doing a good job, take a moment to tell them. Genuinely connecting with a colleague can go a long way in preventing disengaged employees."

Give Them Time Off

Giving disengaged employees some time off can go a long way. Sometimes people need time to sort out their priorities and assess their feelings. Many times, work itself isn't the culprit behind employee turnover. More often than not, family situations or other types of mental health issues are to blame and giving them me-time can improve their mental wellbeing.  

Let Technology Help

It's quite possible that employees are overburdened. During the past year, employees have had to adapt to new environments and novel ways of working and juggling new processes. Kendal suggests leveraging technology to alleviate workers' load. "The right technology can alleviate stress and boost employee engagement by streamlining tedious processes so employees can focus on more significant and rewarding tasks," Kendal said. "It can also provide employees with a much-needed sense of control in these uncertain times."

Related Article: Riding the Employee Engagement Rollercoaster

However companies choose to address the issue, it's important to remember that employee engagement depends on the person in question. Disillusionment is subjective and personal. Some people can cope with vast amounts of challenges and setbacks whereas others struggle. 

Feelings of workplace disillusionment can also stem from issues entirely outside of work. To ensure the company isn't contributing to employee dissatisfaction, take meaningful steps to mitigate employee burnout. Offer workers time for vacation and downtime, listen to their voices, make sure people feel valued, and compensate them accordingly. Then your organization will be on the right track.

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