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How to engage the disengaged

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And what do you do about those who are disengaged?

Apparently only about 1/3 UK employees are actively engaged at work and 20 million people aren’t delivering their full capability (Engage for Success). In contrast, UK companies with high engagement scores had twice the annual net profit than those with low scores ,64% of people said they have more to offer in skills and talent, Productivity was 18% higher in organisations with high engagement levels and staff turnover was 40% less for companies with high engagement levels- impressive statistics to support the case for engagement, wouldn’t you agree?

What is engagement all about?

Employee engagement has become a popular phrase recently with employers who, seeing an upturn in work, have a desire to get the best out of their workforce.

•    Intellectual engagement – thinking hard about the job and how to do it better
•    Affective engagement – feeling positively about doing a good job
•    Social engagement – actively taking opportunities to discuss work-related improvements with others at work

It’s easy to throw around statistics, but what can you do to enhance productivity and performance in your business? I like the use of 4 key enablers of employee engagement:

Strategic narrative – strong, visible leadership providing narrative about where the organisation’s come from and is going to

Engaging managers – focus, coach and stretch people and treat them as individuals

Employee voice – reinforce/challenge views within the business

Organisational integrity – the values on the walls are reflected in daily behaviours

We recently held an engagement session at our HR forum. The HR managers there shared their examples of strong employee engagement, such as Praise and Grumble boards, setting up a Works Council, daily “huddles” on production lines, asking staff for money-saving ideas and bringing in fruit to enhance colleagues’ wellbeing.    
There are also financial engagement initiatives such as salary sacrifice and employee benefits packages. Part of successful engagement is about understanding what makes the individual employee tick- not all are motivated by money but you have to accept that some are!

What about disengaged employees?

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try there are employees who are not motivated and it’s  important to manage them. The typical signs of a disengaged employee are complaining, negative attitude, refusing to help others, lack of enthusiasm, performance issues and lots more. Getting your performance management and discipline and dismissal process right is key to ensuring you can tackle these issues.

Some behaviours are posting negative comments on social media, damaging the reputation of the business, encouraging others to complain and these all have a knock on effect on recruitment and staff turnover.

Potential legal claims might include a grievance and constructive dismissal, discrimination, breach of contract, personal injury, whistleblowing and more.

Identifying and hitting the problem head on is really important. Anonymous feedback and staff surveys can illicit much about the state of the happiness of the workforce. Formal supervisions and appraisals are also an ideal opportunity to pick up on the disengaged employee.

Can you fire an employee for being disengaged?

I am often asked whether you can terminate the employment of an employee who is performing their role in the main, but has a very negative attitude. It can become intolerable to have a team that cant work together or an individual who is downright miserable and makes sure everyone else is too! I’m sure we have all come across this. Dare I say it- the last resort is dismissal. If you can’t identify a reason which fits into one of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal, how about some other substantial reason.

The demeanour and behaviour of an individual having a knock on negative impact on the workforce. Of course you have to try to engage, set targets for improvement, cajole and encourage…..but sometimes dismissal is the only answer and in my view is an option employers should seriously consider if they feel there is a real impact on their business.

What do you think?

Jay Bhayani

By Jay Bhayani

Jay is a solicitor at Bhayani HR & Employment Law

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