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How to motivate disengaged employees

Published: Thursday 18th February 2021

The lockdown restrictions, the change in working patterns and the rise of e-presenteeism due to the pandemic are leading to increased risk of employee disengagement. However, for managers and business leaders, having an engaged workforce is one of the top priorities. Even more so during the pandemic as more and more organisations are struggling under the economic ramifications of the virus and the change in customer behaviours. So how can you re-engage and motivate disengaged employees in your team?

Employ­ee engage­ment stats in the UK

As a matter of fact, employees are struggling more than ever to keep their thoughts on working life due to the pandemic and the uncertainty. To get a better understanding of the current state of employee engagement, we’ve laid out some statistics for those who love numbers. 

Apparently, based on a sur­vey of more than 4,500 workers and a combination of six engagement factors, the UK recorded aver­age engage­ment scores of 45%. The only coun­tries who scored lower were Singapore and Hong Kong. What’s more, a Dale Carnegie statistic shows the real pow­er of employee engagement and why disengagement should set a performance management concern. In accordance to this survey, organisations with high employ­ee engage­ment out­per­form those with low levels of engagement by 202%. 

Therefore, figuring out what to do when it’s your responsibility to deal with disengaged employees can be challenging but of vital importance to your team and the company. Here are some simple yet effective steps that as a manager you can take to motivate disengaged employees on your team.

Bored young woman in the office working with a laptop and staring at computer screen

To motivate disengaged employees, be clear on expectations

If a disengaged employee isn’t clear about their performance and what value it is to the company, it’s easy to see why they could feel demotivated. Set clear expectations and link them directly to your overall business plan. Make sure you review regularly, focussing on the positives during reviews and tell them how crucial they are to the overall team performance.

Don’t play the numbers game in reviews

There’s nothing more soul-destroying for an employee than using a scorecard to grade workplace performance. “I scored myself an eight for this one,” says the employee. “Ah, well, I thought you were more of a three,” says the manager. KPIs may be valuable but review meetings are about reconnecting and listening. So, instead of throwing in empty score numbers, use the opportunity as a manager to ask disengaged employees exactly what’s going on. That way you can come up with a plan to solve the root cause of their unhappiness.

Get employee feedback

You may be feeling full of frustration with an employee who’s not pulling their weight, but it’s important to keep those emotions in check. It’s quite likely that there are factors you don’t know about that are at play in the situation. Therefore, to motivate disengaged employees, spend some time together and consider your meeting a fact-finding mission.

It is essential that you take a supportive tone to encourage them to talk openly about their feelings. Ask them to share their concerns and priorities as well as any ideas they have about how their role could improve or even progress. Gathering regular, more frequent employee feedback through anonymous engagement surveying is another very effective way to stay informed. Just be sure you are gathering feedback and measuring often, as engagement is exceptionally fluid and shifts frequently.

oung male employee in earphones have webcam conference or digital online meeting with coworkers.

Motivate disengaged employees by investing in career development

To motivate disengaged employees, make development a top priority by supporting them to learn new skills and showing them that you actively care about their progression. Utilise those in your organisation with more experience by offering them as a mentor.

Uncover ongoing frustrations 

Assuming that coronavirus is the sole cause of diminishing engagement is a dangerous presumption. This was a key issue in the workplace before COVID came our way, with the Gallup survey finding that 82% of employees cited their manager’s actions as the key reason for their disengagement. To make a difference in the levels of engagement within your company, getting to the root of the issue is key.

Praise mistakes

We all learn through mistakes. And, while some mistakes are best left in the school classroom, most that are made in the workplace are absolutely inevitable. However, there’s nothing more uninspiring as an employee than being disciplined for making a mistake. Instead, management should embrace mistakes and continually remind staff that they’re allowed to make them, provided of course they adhere to the lesson later on. 

Motivate disengaged employees by personalising your actions

Address employee needs, whether it be recognition, rewards or feedback, with personalised action. For example, if an employee reports a dip in engagement around recognition, consider spotlighting the person in the next team meeting, recognising them on your company-wide recognition platform, or having a personal one-on-one meeting to go over their accomplishments. Every employee is unique, with a different set of needs. That’s why it’s important to make your actions personal.

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