There is a nationwide concern about America’s “divorce rate,” but they’re not talking about matrimony. “The increasing number of American workers who are divorced from their jobs and completely disengaged from their work is shocking,” says Eva Jenkins of VIP Innovations. “More than that, it’s costing businesses a fortune in lost productivity and revenue.”
Dismissing charges that 21st Century workers are slackers or possess an un-business like sense of entitlement, the blame squarely should be placed on the shoulders of ineffectual human resources management and managers. Disengaged employees aren’t born that way. They’re created by ineffective, badly trained managers and lack of strong human resource management within corporations.
Instead of matching the right employee to the right position for long-term success, most companies and H/R departments put the emphasis on simply filling the position as quickly as possible. As a result, American businesses are losing money as fast as they’re losing employees. Each staff turnover cuts into the bottom line.
Gallup and Galloping Disinterest Jenkins is not the only employment professional ringing the alarm bell. The statistics on workforce engagement are shocking. The Gallup Management Journal’s semi-annual Employee Engagement Index reports that 54% of employees are not engaged, and 17% are actively disengaged at work and only 29% are actively engaged.
What does this mean to American businesses?
There are 22 million actively disengaged employees in America, according to another Gallup statistic. Their dissatisfaction is manifested in employee absence, illness, and a variety of other big and small problems that occur when people are unhappy at work.
Unfortunately for their employers, when people are unhappy, they let you know it in a million different ways. They create problems with co-workers and customers alike, and can demoralize an entire operation.
Ultimately, disengaged employees can undermine a business and put it on the fast track to being out-of-business. It is therefore essential for managers and H/R professionals to refine their hiring process by expanding their methodology and using whole-person assessment tools.
The Peter Principle Lives On Jenkins says two key features characterize a whole-person assessment. “A manager needs to look at whether the candidate is a good match for the job in terms of hard skills,” she explains. “But it’s also important to make sure that it’s a soft skills match, too…that the candidate’s interest and personal goals and needs will be met by the work itself and they will fit into the corporate culture.”
Unless a company defines success in a job, and in an organization, it cannot hire, retain or grow their own workforce successfully. Rather than being terminated themselves, bad managers are continually being promoted. Soon they’re victims of the Peter Principle.
The Peter Principle is a theory put forth by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in 1969. It states that employees within a hierarchical organization advance to their highest level of competence, are then promoted to a level where they are incompetent, and then stay in that position because they no longer merit advancement.
With incompetent managers at the top and in control of hiring practices, this scenario spells disaster for staffing.
$350 Billion Lost The impact of employee disengagement is a bottom line issue. Gallup statistics show that unhappy workers cost the American business economy up to $350 billion annually in lost productivity!
“This is an urgent problem and businesses that don’t address their own role in the problem are doomed,” says Jenkins. The problem affects both companies and disengaged employees.
Many outstanding employees end up leaving an organization feeling lost and beaten down. After a bad work experience, it’s hard for even the most competent workers to re-define their own purpose and rebuild their self-confidence. As a result, outstanding workers become “stuck” and find they have difficulty making a decision about their next position.
The Honeymoon Is Over and Workers Are No Longer Married to Their Jobs Jenkins is clear that she feels “Bad management and bad leadership create a destructive culture where people will not thrive!” She points out that the vast majority of workers accept new positions with excitement and interest. “People are generally thrilled to land a new position and are ready to give their all to success.”
Sadly, that enthusiasm quickly gives way to apathy when employees feel they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. HR departments or hiring managers don’t take the time to match employees to their positions on all levels – professional and personal.
Trickle Down Blame Upper management is also to blame for the problem. Hiring managers know very little about their own employees due to their own tremendous workload. Additionally, today’s corporate culture does not encourage managers to get to know their employees before they’re hired and does not emphasize interaction after they’re hired.
Many businesses fail to focus on employee development, training and retention at any level, including managers. “Companies don’t realize how important it is to give their managers the tools and training they need to do their jobs, too,” says Jenkins.
Time Badly Spent Since they haven’t received proper training, many managers themselves do not know what it takes to succeed in a particular role nor do they have an incentive to care. More often than not, the focus and emphasis of the H/R department is “putting out fires.”
For the average manager, the bulk of a workday is spent working with employees who are negative, completely disengaged and should be terminated because they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.
Know When To Hold ‘Em and Know When To Fire ‘Em Jenkins is quick to point out that “not all employees can, or should, be saved.” She says that those who are actively disengaged may thrive on the negativity and refuse to become part of any solution, preferring to perpetual problems.
As workers increasingly rely on each other to generate products and services, the problems and tensions that are fostered by actively disengaged workers can cause great damage to an organization’s functioning. “If an employee repeatedly refuses opportunities to engage again, terminating their employment should be seriously considered,” says Jenkins.
Last Resort Termination is often necessary in order to avoid further damage to staff morale and remove obstacles to organizational progress. The solution is a flawed one, at best, since a tremendous amount of money is lost every time a new employee needs to be found, hired, and trained.
A more effective approach is the development of in-depth hiring processes that will result in the right people being selected from the start. Once the right people are in place, managers need to work to keep employees interested and engaged so that they’re stay in place.
Jenkins advises that all management supervisory training programs include Employee Retention Workshops. “From my perspective, Employee Retention Training should be a full course within the MBA Leadership Programs,” she says.
Expectations, Clarification and Measurement To grow and sustain employee engagement, managers must regularly provide expectations, clarification, and measurement to employees. A good place to start is with conversations about expectations for every person in a given role.
It’s important that managers strive to get each employee to view his or her role from a broader perspective instead of from a narrow task-oriented point of view. Managers often overlook the value of making an employee feel part of the big picture and encouraging that person to see how his or her work contributes to the future success of the company.
“The objective is to focus employees on outcomes as well as the steps it takes to get there,” explains Jenkins. The change of focus allows employees to become goal-oriented rather than task-oriented and to enjoy a sense of achievement when goals are reached…and surpassed!”
Getting to Know You For great managers, the path toward engaging employees and keeping them engaged begins with asking them what they want and what they need in order to be effective in their roles. Good managers need to get to know their employees better than the employees know themselves!
To achieve this, management needs to define competencies for each job, division and the company as a whole. A sound hiring/selection process and finely honed assessment methodology will provide the foundation.
With the this type of hiring strategy, research shows that companies raise the odds by more than 75% that managers will make the right hiring decisions. Instead of simply filling a position, they’ll bring in qualified, productive, engaged workers who feel they have a stake in the business and its success.
Give The People What They Want Jenkins recommends that a business “assess, measure, survey and train the entire organization” to create a company-wide culture that “prioritizes employee engagement at every level.”
There’s one expressed desire that frequently surprises managers and H/R people: many of the survey participants said they wanted to be challenged by their jobs. “In other words, employees don’t want to sleepwalk their way through the workday,” says Jenkins. They want to matter…make a contribution…make a difference.
“And that,” says Jenkins, “is the very definition of being engaged!”
About the Author
Jenkins is a leading authority on human capital management, and the driving force at VIP Staffing and VIP Innovations in Washington, D.C. She is also co-author of a book titled, “Conversations on Success”, a collection of powerful interviews with accomplished entrepreneurs in a variety of industries.