8 measures to take when your people are disengaged

TalentSmith Technology’s Roland Glass on how to respond to negative engagement survey results.

Given the turbulence of the last six months, you might think that what’s needed now is a good, hard look at cash flow and financial performance. A tough response to tough trading conditions. A sharp pivot in operating models. And you’d be right.

But what’s also needed from employers who intend to survive into an uncertain future is compassion. Communication. Relationship-building. Leadership. Mentoring. And supporting employees personally, beyond remuneration and even benefits.

In times of crisis, your people may pull back, disconnect or disengage. That’s completely natural. It happens. But if they stay that way, your business can suffer.

For this reason, it is critical that CHROs and even CEOs understand and commit to measuring employee engagement – perhaps the most crucial metric required to withstand the impact of seismic professional and personal change.

The first step is to ask your people how engaged they are – not casually, but deliberately, in a completely anonymous pulse survey. 

It is also important to have the right survey, which will investigate things like how connected your people feel to the company; whether they believe that the company cares about them and supports their wellbeing; whether they feel that their manager leads with compassion and kindness; whether they are clear on what is expected of them; and whether they feel that they have the support to achieve their goals and be successful.

But what if the results come out negative? What if it turns out that your people are disengaged?

Hard-hitting action

In that case, it is time to take action: hard-hitting, direct, prompt action, to address the real issues. Here’s how:

1 Be brave

Dive into the data and insights and don’t be afraid to face the facts that can make your business better. Engage with your employees frequently and consistently. Because insights need to be specific, you can’t afford to view people as one homogenous group. Be specific and understand engagement within the different archetypes of your workforce.

2 Test the different constructs from the survey

When engaging with employees, don’t request feedback only in those areas where you know you’ll score well. Test across all constructs, from values and support to connection and leadership. You can’t afford to buy into a generalised hypothesis of what will impact engagement when aligning your strategic plan to corrective action.

3 Get to grips with what the problems really are

Find the priority problems within your business by being humble in your understanding of the issues. Truly listen to what your people are saying and remember that the process of re-building sometimes means failing forwards.

4 Give leaders what they need to support change

Transformative organisations understand that organisational culture and performance thrive within a culture of learning, growth and outward mindset. Be transparent with your leadership team, so that your employees see an aligned leadership force that stands ready to make an impact.

5 Carve out a plan to re-engage your people

Getting employee feedback is just step one. Solving crucial problems is step two. Making and implementing plans to engage your people is step three, and it must become part of your culture. “We’re doing because you told us it mattered.” People need to trust that their feedback is core to leadership conversations, so let them share in behaviour change and in purposeful measures of change engagement.

6 Try new things.

When you’re close to your business and its successes and challenges, new ideas are not always clear. A fresh perspective can bring about change and strategies that were not clear from inside. For instance, you can create an experience for employees. Make sure it’s digital, slick, short, and requires less time than ordering a takeaway from your favourite restaurant. You can also get professional help to achieve this.

7 Measure frequently and iterate as you go

The feedback cycle is truly effective when you measure frequently. It is important to gather feedback, implement change, and then re-measure to test the success of your actions. Take your people along for the journey; share the results.

8 Avoid complacency in the face of accelerating change

Never allow yourself to believe that your business is perfect or that the job is ‘done’: there is always an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.

My challenge to you

So I’m challenging you, CHROs and CEOs. As the ultimate custodians of the people in our companies, we must elevate engagement to a core concern. We can’t afford to hide from the real issues that impact our people, performance and culture. We must get data-driven insights. We must understand how connected our people are. We must access the truths we need. And we must manage the impact. We must also understand that change needs a before and after because corrective action needs a baseline.