What is the Cost of a Disengaged Work Force?

Joe Weinlick
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Employee engagement programs are all the rage in management circles, and for good reason. When these efforts fail, companies must deal with the resulting business costs. Disengaged workers are rarely islands unto themselves; in most cases, they actively cause damage to your staff, operations and the bottom line.

Sabotaged Productivity

Disengaged workers are rarely as motivated or efficient as their engaged counterparts. As a result, they may work more slowly, get bored quickly and exhibit lower productivity. What's worse, however, is that this attitude can become insidious, infecting the rest of your workforce. An employee who is actively disengaged may spread his unhappiness to other employees, making it difficult for them to work effectively. Their constant lack of participation and enthusiasm can undermine co-workers and sabotage morale. The result is cumulative; according to a 2013 Gallup poll, this total loss in productivity costs American companies between $450 billion and $550 billion each year.

Lack of Collaboration

Most companies depend on collaboration to achieve even the smallest projects. Disengaged workers can sabotage your collaborative efforts, making it impossible for the team to gel. The employees might refuse to participate actively in group meetings or brainstorming sessions, or they may have a hard time playing well with others. This can result in an "us versus them" mentality that splits the team and causes discontent. Without solid teamwork, it's difficult to maintain a positive environment and create innovative solutions. Over time, the problem can lead to lower job satisfaction for all of your employees.

Damaged Brand

When disengaged workers interact with customers or vendors, they can do real damage to your brand. After all, if the employee feels no connection to the business, he's unlikely to put forth much effort into maintaining positive relationships. From lackluster customer service experiences to unenthusiastic in-person interactions, these employees can plant seeds of negativity that harm your brand. An employee who makes careless mistakes or fails to hide his discontent from clients can ruin a potentially lucrative relationship with a single conversation.

Increased Turnover

Engaged workers are emotionally invested and committed to your company; disengaged workers are the opposite. Because they do not feel a strong connection to the company and the work, it's easier for them to leave. As a result, your business loses the money it spent on hiring, training and developing the employee, not to mention the added cost of finding a replacement. Each departure disrupts the workflow and increases the burden on remaining workers. It can also cause employee burnout, result in project delays and give clients an unsettling sense of instability.

Disengaged workers can create a ripple effect of negativity that extends throughout the company to the end user. When you understand the risks and business costs, it's easier to motivate upper management to enact powerful, effective engagement practices.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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