People sometimes become disengaged at work, whether from dissatisfaction with their jobs or disruptive events in their personal lives. But employee disengagement has reached crisis levels in the past year and a half. It’s not hard to find a reason. We’ve all experienced the stress of living through a pandemic, abrupt shifts to working from home, economic uncertainty, work and family stress to some extent.
Disengagement doesn’t only hurt one person’s work. It can also spread to other team members. That’s why it’s important to take steps to cultivate engagement and reverse the trend.
Signs of disengaged employees
Don’t wait for an employee’s quarterly or semi-annual review to gauge or discuss their level of engagement. Look for the following signs:
Withdrawal. Disengaged employees withdraw from non-necessary activities and conversations. For example, you might notice certain team members don’t attend virtual or in-person team-building and social events, or some people never turn their cameras on during video conferences.
Poor communication. Disengaged employees may not ask questions, follow through with communication or speak up in meetings.
Absenteeism. Taking personal or sick days and vacations time is healthy. But it can be a bad sign when an employee who had a great attendance record starts missing a lot of work. Of course, there’s a possibility they’re dealing with personal or health issues they haven’t shared with you, but it’s worth engaging in a caring dialog to find out what’s going on.
Declining performance. Declining work quality or output, missed deadlines and failing to fulfill their commitments are signs of disengagement.
Naysaying. Disengaged employees tend to be cynical and disenchanted with the company. As a result, they may naysay new ideas and opportunities and be rude to coworkers.
6 ways to cultivate employee engagement
Disengagement doesn’t have to be a terminal condition. With effort, you can overcome and even prevent it from happening by doing the following.
Regular employee engagement surveys are a great way to collect feedback from many employees at once. These surveys don’t have to be extensive. You can do smaller surveys each quarter that focus on a particular area.
For example, we recently sent out a benefits survey to ask people about the benefits we currently offer, which ones they use and which they’d like to see us add. You could also survey employees about their perceptions of leadership, communication, technology, processes, etc.
Communicate why you’re conducting the survey and ensure that feedback is anonymous to improve the participation rate. And be sure to act on the feedback to ensure that future surveys are well-received, too.
Hold regular meetings
It’s easy for employees to feel cut off from their coworkers while working remotely. Having more regular team meetings and one-on-ones can prevent that disconnect.
When you do meet virtually, encourage people to turn their cameras on. It’s too easy to multitask by checking email and working on other projects when cameras are off during a video conference. Before you realize it, you’ve mentally checked out of the meeting.
Find reasons to celebrate
There might not be much good news in the world these days, but we can still find things to celebrate as a team: birthdays, anniversaries, landing a new client, reaching a personal or professional goal, having a baby, etc. Put someone on your team (or a committee, depending on your firm’s size) in charge of celebrating milestones. Whether you share congratulations on Microsoft Teams, send flowers, or give someone kudos in the firm newsletter, these little celebrations help people feel appreciated and engaged.
Encourage water cooler conversations
Water cooler conversations are those day-to-day moments when people have casual conversations on topics ranging from work-related to personal themes.
It might seem like a time-waster, but it’s a great way to bring people together and help them connect in an otherwise formal work environment. When people are working remotely, water cooler conversations may not happen organically, so make them happen. Whether you use Microsoft Teams, Slack, Workplace by Facebook or another team chat app, put someone in charge of initiating these conversations.
Some ideas include:
What’s your favorite song?
What is the most ridiculous fact you know?
Pineapple on pizza: Yes or No?
Share a video or gif that describes your weekend.
What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week?
Hold workplace wellness challenges
According to a survey from Thomson Online Benefits, employees who feel that their employer-provided benefits positively impact their lives are 40% more likely to feel loyal to the company. Workplace wellness challenges are a cost-effective way to promote healthier, happier employees and drive engagement.
At Boomer Consulting, we hold monthly health quests where employees can earn points by doing things like exercising for 30 minutes, getting seven hours of sleep, eating four servings of fruits or vegetables per day, and drinking 64 ounces of water per day. Anyone who earns enough points for the month gets $25 to spend on whatever they want.
Share employee preferences
When a new employee comes on board, how do you what kind of treats they like, the hobbies they engage in, or how they prefer to be shown appreciation?
At Boomer Consulting, we find out by having them fill out a Treat Sheet — a questionnaire that asks about their favorite foods, drinks, hobbies, and what makes them feel appreciated (verbal feedback, new opportunities and challenges, gifts, etc.). When we want to thank someone on the team for a job well done, we can consult the Treat Sheet to find out what they like. For example, we might see they love vanilla lattes and have a drink from Starbucks delivered to their home.
Engaging employees — and keeping them engaged — takes time and effort. But when you take steps to cultivate it in your firm, it becomes a competitive advantage for holding on to talented and high-performing individuals. Incorporate some of these tips in your firm today, and you’ll see engagement improve in the long term.
Do you need help with your firm’s hiring and talent strategy?
Boomer Talent Consulting can help you get clarity on your firm’s most critical talent objectives and create a go-forward strategy suited to your firm’s unique needs. Schedule a discovery call today to begin implementing an organizational structure that is positioned and accelerating into the future.
As Financial Operations for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Jenna is passionate about the administrative side of business –both internally and externally.Her primary focus is on the company’s payroll, human resources, and accounting.
Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc.as a Solutions Advisor in 2018,Jenna owned a home health agency for three and a half years.