Turning Disengaged Employees into Eager Contributors


What makes one organization more successful than another? Some believe it is better services, products, pricing, strategies or even technologies. Without doubt, all these contribute to better performance. But, the one thing that creates competitive advantage – and therefore company value, improved bottom line and long-term strength – is the workforce.

Business owners might say that there are two kinds of employees – disengaged and engaged. Disengaged employees are those who aren’t aware of the organization’s vision and spend most of their time watching the clock. They simply show up to work prepared to do the minimum. Engaged employees, on the other hand, are those who are dedicated to the organization’s vision and eager to contribute. They are productive and live by the organization’s values. Whereas engaged employees challenge those around them to do more and better, disengaged employees demoralize the productive employees with their lack of passion and intensity. 

This reminds me of the story of three people who were at work on a construction site. All were doing the exact same job, but when each was asked about his or her job, the answers varied. The first replied, “breaking rocks.” The second said, “earning a living.” The third answered, “helping to build a cathedral.” 

Dale Carnegie recently teamed with MSW Research to study the functional and emotional elements that affect employee engagement. The study states, “Smart leaders create engaged employees by listening, understanding, motivating and supporting.” Additionally, the study identifies three factors that determine the enthusiasm and commitment of employees:
• Relationship with immediate supervisor
• Belief in senior leadership
• Pride in working for the company

Not surprisingly, the research found that the attitude and actions of the immediate supervisor can enhance employee engagement or can create an atmosphere where an employee becomes disengaged. Also, employees said that believing in the ability of senior leadership to openly communicate the state of the organization, take their input and lead the company in the right direction are vital. Other factors are that employees are treated with respect, that their personal values are reflected and that the organization sincerely cares how they feel.

The question remains: How do you turn disengaged employees into eager contributors? Engagement isn’t a magic bullet like bagels on Mondays. It generally involves three fundamental areas: directional leadership, which builds a consensus for the vision; motivational leadership, which inspires people to pursue the vision; and organizational leadership, which develops the team to realize the vision. 

With highly engaged go-getters you can feel the energy; it changes the atmosphere and ripples like waves when a rock skips across a pond. Leaders must ask, “Have I given my team the permission to be engaged and do I reflect that in my own behavior?” Generally, answers to the five statements below can help measure employee engagement. Ask yourself, how would your team rate these statements on a scale of 1 to 5?
• I have confidence in the leadership ability of senior management.
• My immediate manager is interested in me as a person.
• I look forward to going to work.
• My organization encourages open communication.
• I believe that all employees are treated with respect.

Now, how would you answer them?