How bosses can engage their demotivated employees

With current global uncertainty, people are more likely to stay in their jobs due to the difficulty in finding new ones

David Rigby
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There is a growing trend in employees coming into work, going through the motions and detaching themselves from work. With current global uncertainty, people are more likely to stay in their jobs due to the difficulty in finding new ones.

According to Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher: “Motivated workers treat customers well... It’s just the way it works.” It stands to reason that there is a correlation between engaged employees and happy customers who come back time and again. Yet many organizations are struggling to drive the connection between the two.


I had a discussion with a colleague in Dubai about going the extra mile. He replied: “If you go the extra mile for one, they’ll all want it and come to expect it.” So no extra mile from him. Why are so many people demotivated now? They:

• are receiving no praise, only criticism
• are not receiving feedback on specific activities in a timely manner
• have no career path
• do not have a clear job description

What is employee engagement?

The most successful companies realize that when people feel good about where they work, they tend to perform better. Good employee engagement breaks down the ‘them and us’ barriers that can develop between management and workers, ensuring a dedicated workforce pulling in the same direction. Enlightened companies conduct employee questionnaires to gain insights into how they are feeling about the company. However:

• they might give the employee the illusion they are cared about
• employees may not feel they can be totally honest, as what they say could be used in a witch-hunt
• employees can become quickly disillusioned if the results are not published or acted on

How to get employee engagement

• Structure: Ruling by carrot (very occasionally) and stick (often) is a major cause of employee disengagement. Create self-managed teams that work closely together.
• Empowerment: In organizations where empowerment is a policy, the company creates an environment of sharing information, openness around the office, and a culture of recognizing performance. Staff are encouraged to think about ways to improve how the company works, or solve daily common problems.
• Sharing information: Keep employees up to date with company goals, objectives and financial performance so they feel included. Create autonomy - share power with employees, giving them the authority to implement ideas, self-manage and make decisions for themselves.
• Trust the staff: Staff appreciate being given the green light to express their ideas and readily accept the challenge. They feel trusted, part of the company and fully inclusive. That trust is usually rewarded as employees respond positively and up their productivity as a result, especially if they are making independent, autonomous decisions.
• Training: Provide training opportunities and encourage attending seminars and workshops. This not only improves employee skills, but also demonstrates that you are investing in their future and believe in them. The training world is currently ruled by accountants with the question: “What happens if I train my employee and then he or she leaves?” No one is asking: “What happens if I don’t train them?” Disengaged employees will develop disengaged customers, and the business will fail.

Companies can choose to pursue employee engagement as a company-wide policy that needs to be embraced fully. The benefits are clear: high levels of employee satisfaction, a real sense of shared purpose, and total team collaboration. In a company that fosters promotion from within, that culture is passed on as employees, totally on board with the company ethos and culture, go on to become managers. If trained properly, they become leaders and examples to all others.

Ultimately it is the clients who benefit, as they receive a quality service from a company with dedicated, motivated employees. For the employer, it means having happy, loyal staff who will perform. For the staff member, it is worthwhile going to work.

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