What is Disengagement Costing Your Company?

dreamstime_m_5940618“If American companies do not find a way to engage more of their workers, they will struggle to create more jobs, making it difficult for the U.S. to achieve real, sustainable economic growth in the near future.” –Gallup

Gallup’s “2013 State of the American Workplace” survey found that the continuing high level of employee disengagement is costing the U.S. $450-$550 billion per year, dramatically impacting the growth of the American economy.  Worldwide, engagement is at 13%, with the U.S. at 30%. This begs the question, what is disengagement costing your company? Collectively, this hard-hitting, data-based information makes the business case for executives to establish Engagement as a priority in their organizations regardless of geographical location.

We recommend you review the surveys at the Gallup website.  Rather than selectively repeating some of Gallup’s findings, this article will focus on one high-impact driver of engagement:  Job Content.

While it is not the only driver of engagement, the work an employee does every day is a highly significant factor in engagement. Experts such as Myers, Hackman and Oldham established keys to job design, developing approaches such as job enrichment (growing a job scope vertically, i.e. increasing employee’s planning activities) and job expansion (growing a job’s scope laterally, including more tasks using similar skills i.e. soldering 3 parts vs. 1 part).

It’s simple, though not necessarily easy, to design jobs that engage people.  Following are five characteristics that can be built into jobs at all levels across an organization to build and sustain engagement:

  1. Leverage an employee’s highest level of knowledge and talents
  2. Meet employee expectations for opportunity to plan work
  3. Provide authority and autonomy to get things done
  4. Allow an effective range of variety of tasks
  5. Provide visibility and access to information, including individual performance feedback as well as information about the company strategy, competitors, customers, metrics as well as how the employee can have impact through his/her performance

While these experts’ findings came later in time than Frederick Taylor and “Scientific Management”, the older methods of job design with their primary focus on efficiency and productivity are still widespread in today’s workplaces.  But, should they be?  Is efficiency and productivity lost when jobs are enriched and/or expanded?  When employees are engaged in their work, they are more productive and efficient.  Gallup data shows that the 30 million engaged employees in the U.S. are the sources of most innovative ideas, bring in the most new customers and are recognized as impacting the following 9 measures of performance:

  • customer ratings
  • profitability
  • productivity
  • turnover (for high- and low-turnover organizations)
  • safety incidents
  • shrinkage (theft)
  • absenteeism
  • patient safety incidences
  • quality (defects)

Organizations have nothing to lose and much to gain from driving engagement-building change.  Start by re-designing jobs based on the five key characteristics for engaging people.  Its potential impact is great.

Do your people love their jobs?  Do they understand the business strategy and how they make a difference?  If you examine your organization’s jobs will you find they have engaging characteristics?  If the answer to this question is not a resounding “YES” then your business is probably not only not benefiting from the high performance that engagement provides, but the costs associated with unreached human potential are probably impacting the business short and long term.


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