Five Signs Your Employees Might Not Be Engaged - Part 1

Recently, a young man we worked with left his plumbing job. He was excited about the field, he enjoyed getting up in the morning and he liked the people at the organization. In fact, he hoped to obtain his apprenticeship by going to school in the fall. Why, then, did he leave the position? The answer is simple. Young and mobile, he was constantly sent to jobs out of town. While his meals and accommodations were paid by the company, the constant travel kept him from his family and friends.

Welcome to the age of the Millennial! He, like many others his age, finds the need to be with his family and friends just as, if not more,Workforce Planning important than his desire to grow his career. For many of the younger generations, instant gratification seems more important than planning for the future. Had the plumbing company taken time to understand and accommodate this young man’s needs, he would still be with the company today. Instead, they lost a valued employee.

Today, more than ever, employers need to include their staff in decisions – not necessarily about the vision of the organization, rather in how to get there. Businesses now are not like the businesses that current leaders – read Baby Boomers – started 20 or even 30 years ago, it’s different. People want to be heard and to have input into how to reach organizational goals and to know their role in achieving those successes. Ensuring that employees feel like they are a part of the decision making process, is a key to engagement. According to a Gallup poll 70% of the US workforce admits to either being disengaged or actively disengaged in the workplace. Lack of engagement often contributes to employee turnover

How can you tell if your organization has an employee engagement issue. Many organizations conduct Employee Engagement Surveys to provide information on how engaged employees are and how the organization is meeting the needs of its employees. A great idea! However, sometimes employees provide only positive feedback to these surveys, fearing a lack of confidentiality in their responses. Later they may share different information with others, both inside and outside of the organization. Glassdoor is a website that provides an opportunity for employees, both current and former, to comment about their employers, even anonymously if they wish. Sometimes these comments are not positive and conflict with the results of engagement surveys. Organizations should monitor and take into consideration employee posts on this and other social sites to get a full picture of how employees perceive the company.

Whether conducting an engagement survey or not, there are many tell-tale signs why employees of any age might leave their current employers. Today we will look at two of the five these posts will focus on.

Sign 1: Irrelevant Work or Under Utilization

Talent DevelopmentEveryone wants to feel they are part of the solution and contributing in meaningful ways. If people are performing mundane, repetitive tasks and cannot see how it benefits the organization’s goals , it is very possible the employee will leave. Yes, everyone performs tasks at work that, if they had a choice, they would not do. However, individuals need to do meaningful work that utilizes their skills to the fullest extent possible to help the company move forward.

We frequently see this when people are “all over the place” doing “everything as required.” Often an expectation exists of saving money by having staff perform those tasks that nobody wants to do. However, it becomes a critical engagement issue when it’s the employee’s primary responsibility and the work doesn’t match or underutilizes the employee’s skillset.

Often organizations present employees with tasks that do not connect to their skill sets, training or education. Management then cannot understand why employees are unhappy. It’s not surprising, then, that these employees become disengaged and either leave the company physically, or at least emotionally. By increasing the correlation between employee skillsets, assigned tasks and organizational goals employee engagement increases and the costs from employee turnover decrease.

If the employee perceives these tasks as irrelevant, he or she will likely leave. Note the word “perceives!” It not only matters how relevant the work is to the outcomes of the department, it also matters how relevant the work is to the individual and his or her skill set. The connection between organizational goals and engaged employees is the difference between profit and losses for your organization. A Gallup poll found that lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the US economy $370 billion a year. This same study found that 86% of engaged employees very often feel happy at work, as opposed to only 11% of disengaged employees expressing a similar sentiment. 

Talk with your employees and ensure the majority of their work aligns with their passions, skills and expectations. Doing so will lead to more receptivity to do those tasks that nobody wants to do.

Sign 2: Absenteeism and “Presenteeism”

Team BuildingWhen employees are not engaged they often find ways to not be “present” at work. This may mean being absent from the work place physically. Lack of engagement can reduce the immune system, causing people to catch colds, get the flu and just generally feel more groggy. The result – they stay home. Billions of dollars are lost daily in the workplace due to physical absenteeism.

It is exhilirating to see those employees who are in the right jobs and how engaged they are with their careers. They love coming to work every day because they know they are making a contribution to the success of the organization and developing their careers. This level of engagement may be one reason many of these people do not let sickness stop them. A Towers Watson study on maintaining employee engagement found that retaining employees depends in large part upon the quality of their work experience, including factors seemingly always in the mix regardless of the economic situation or other outside factors. These factors include career advancement opportunities within the organization, the relationship with the immediate supervisor and overall work/life balance. Ensuring positive employee engagement in the workplace increases the likelihood that employees will stay in the organization and devote themselves to its success, as well as their own.

For example, we worked with one individual who contracted a very serious health condition that would easily have prevented her from working  as she went through treatment. Despite her condition, this engaged employee was at work often and she even worked from home on those days when she was too sick to travel to the office. Some may see this as foolish; so be it. The fact remains that this employee was engaged and wanted to continue to contribute to the organization’s success, even when seriously ill.

“Presenteeism” describes employees who come to work physically, yet mentally are somewhere else. Perhaps they are thinking of their impending holiday, wedding, divorce, a family member’s illness or a myriad of other things. When an employee is present but not productive, spends time staring off into space and not paying attention to the work, it could mean disaster, especially if there are safety issues to be considered in the position.

When employees are away often, whether it is physically or emotionally, it may be a sign that you have an employee engagement issue. If this is the case, then it is time to consider how this can be changed by exploring the “what” or the “how” of doing the job.

These are only two of the five signs that your organization may be experiencing suffering from employee engagement issues. In the meantime, please share your thoughts and/or experiences with the underutilization of employees as well as absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. Next week we will discuss the remaining three signs of employee engagement issues.


Career Partners International provides top quality talent management services to organizations of all sizes. Their offices around the world help assessengagedevelop, and transition talent in any industry. To find out more about Career Partners International and how you can maximize your organizational performance, reach out to an office near you or contact us today!


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  1. Russ Knight's avatar
    Russ Knight
    | Permalink
    We hear so much about the COST of employee engagement, which is real, but have less of a grasp on what to do about it. According to Modern Survey, they have found the #1 driver of employee engagement -which is NOT happiness at work! - is opportunities for career development. How are you engaging your people with opportunities to grow and improve their service to the organization?

    P.S. I always think of Anthony Michael Hall when I see the first stock photo here.

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