Every employee starts out wanting to perform well and become an active contributor to the company. However, as a 2014 Gallup poll revealed, 51% of employees in the United States were still “not engaged” and 17.5% were “actively disengaged.” Many companies are grappling with this dilemma, with varying amounts of success.

First, Identify the Challenges

Multiple factors can combine to turn an enthusiastic employee into one who watches the clock…or heads for the door. Below are few of the most common ones:

  1. Shortage of recognition, such as pay raises and verbal praise
  2. Incompetent management, including poorly defined goals
  3. Lack of communication and transparency
  4. A negative work environment caused by disengaged co-workers or a highly political culture
  5. No obvious career path or other ways to advance, such as on-the-job training.

Any or all of these environmental factors can easily bring down an employee who once had the intrinsic motivation and desire to do a good job. In order to re-engage this employee, managers must work to reverse these situations.

Remove the Challenges and Re-Engage

Once the problem has been identified, it is important to address it and find a suitable solution. Here are some steps in the right direction-

  • Ensure that deserving employees are individually recognized for all their hard work. This recognition does not need to involve money or gifts—usually an email announcement or a post on a company-wide social tool that gets “liked” and shared is more valuable than any gift card or trinket. In order for recognition to become part of the company culture, upper management must drive the initiative and it must be communicated consistently.
  • Train managers to be effective mentors and team builders. Sometimes top performers coming from individual contributor roles struggle when put in a leadership position where they are managing rather than “doing.” Ensure that they provide their employees with goals to help them grow as well as frequent feedback to improve their progress. In the same vein, it is important to remove managers who dampen development.
  • Be honest with your employees, and keep them in the loop about the company’s goals and progress towards them. Make a clear connection to each job function and how it contributes to the overall strategy. Use technology to help you spread the message company-wide, and even collect questions and feedback.
  • Ensure that the staff has the tools and support needed to do a great job. Counsel or cull out employees who spread negativity and induce stress in the workplace, and do not reward political behavior or play favorites.
  • Make employee development a priority by providing educational and cross-training opportunities. If you show your top performers that you care about their development beyond their results that quarter, they will stay longer and work harder for you.

There is no way to fake employee engagement, and no fast track to it. Throwing parties or giving rewards to unhappy employees is only a Band-Aid solution, and they will see right through it. If management is able to address the root causes of disengagement, the company will reap the benefits as it sees increased engagement, productivity, and profitability.