Researchers Identify the 14 Key Areas of Employee Disengagement

Employees who are disengaged at work probably won’t stick around in 2015.

As the economy continues to improve, workers will want to migrate rather than stick it out. Losing talented employees can be surprisingly costly—a staggering $3,337 per unhappy worker, to be precise.

At the same time, it is also financially unsound to keep and employ non-engaged staff, since they tend to be the very same people who are interacting with your customers. This means the people the company has relied on to grow the business, find new sources of revenue or elevate productivity—are calling it in on a daily basis.

The estimated annual loss to American businesses due to a lack of employee immersion is a whopping $350 billion each year. What can be done? 

First, you must understand the staff’s engagement conditions. That way, you can capitalize on these factors and keep your workers happy. Nurturing talent is much more cost-effective than losing it.

The Society for Human Resource Management has outlined engagement conditions in their recently released Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement study.

Here are 14 key areas that researchers found contribute to disengagement:

Related Article: The Numbers Don’t Lie: Quantifying Employee Engagement

1. Relationships With Coworkers

When coworkers get along, the result can often be loyalty, camaraderie and moral support. If everyone is at peace, there is less likelihood that anyone will want to disappoint a fellow team member.

The fix: If worker discord is a problem for your organization, you will want to look into team building training and activities. Depending on the severity of the rift, mediation could potentially be of value, or re-assigning teams so as to not keep bad relationships close to one another.

2. Contribution of Work to Organization’s Business Goals

Most people want to think that their efforts and toil are somehow effecting the bottom line. Employees will feel livelier if they can clearly see how their loyalty and dedication is actually growing the business.

The fix: If your firm is not underscoring the connection between worker’s roles and the bottom line, it is now time to do so. Make sure that each employee has a stake in the company, and that their personal performance goals directly relate to the business. Hold them to it, and give regular reviews on their performance so as to keep them motivated.

3. Meaningfulness of the Job

Imagine that you are a doctor, and you save lives each and every day. Doctors must feel like they are doing something meaningful when friends and family thank them after saving a life. Is your company tying in each employee’s role into the greater good in some way? If not, you will have less keen workers.

The fix: Even if your company isn’t saving the world (don’t worry, most of us aren’t), contribution to the greater good is something every business can be a part of. Figure out what it is for your business, and communicate that to your team.

4. Opportunities to Use Skills and Abilities

Work is just about the paycheck, right? In reality, it’s not. Fifty-eight percent of staff actually want to use their unique skills and abilities in the workplace. Is your management team playing into each individual employee’s gifts and attributes? If not, your help’s absorption levels will be low.

The fix: Take the time to identify your employees’ best skills and areas they excel in, tell them that (everyone needs feedback and validation), and give them assignments or projects that directly relate to those skills. 

Good Relationship With Supervisor

5. Relationship With Immediate Supervisor

Studies show that a worker’s perception of their supervisor is associated with the attitude of the organization. Is your management team actually embodying the company’s core values? Or are they alienating staff with counter-productive attitudes and inappropriate one-on-one feedback?

The fix: Make it clear to your employees that they can communicate with you. Invite them to coffee, schedule catch-up meetings and ask them direct yet genuinely interested and concerned questions. If they feel safe and supported, they’ll feel more inclined to be open about their issues, which will help you create a potential solution for the management issue. 

6. The Work Itself

Is the work stimulating? Or is the work dull and repetitious? How invested will staff be if they feel like so many mindless cogs in a mechanistic machine? You can tell if an employee is sitting at their computer messing around or not. 

The fix: If you see this as an issue, ask your employees to help you identify better ways to do their jobs. Their investment in finding solutions to better their situation, in addition to the trust you’re putting in them, could make them feel more involved and a part of the solution.

7. Variety of Work

In general, most employees want to periodically do something different. Even the most exciting job can eventually seem routine. Job rotation and job expansion can help keep everyone working hard. Is your company injecting variety into its positions?

The fix: Try to get different teams working together on new projects. Ask your employees for ideas of projects they want to work on outside of their immediate daily tasks, and designate time for them to do the projects that make the most sense for your business.

8. Autonomy and Independence

Forty-seven percent of employees value freedom and flexibility, having the ability to decide how and when they complete projects. Where possible, are you allowing your workers room to breathe?

The fix: Let them have some skin in the game, and they’ll feel a lot more invested. Then, step back and quit micromanaging! You hired them for a reason.

Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay

9. Overall Corporate Culture

A corporation’s culture is the organization’s manor and attitude. If you have a supremely fun or unorthodox culture, it can help keep people engaged. What changes can you make to the business’s overall environment that will create greater high spirits?

The fix: Culture doesn’t just mean the “fun” things a company offer it’s employees—it comes down to the overall ethos of 

10. Management’s Recognition of Employee Job Performance

Fifty-five percent of employees find recognition very important to their overall zeal. Do you have the proper positive feedback loops in place to keep workers happy?

The fix: Create a structure that allows for regular reviews, and make recognition a part of that. Incentivize performance with quarterly outings or prizes if the team hits their target. Or, implement a bonus structure. Whatever it is, make feedback a regular habit, and give credit where credit is due.

11. Job-Specific Training

Forty-one percent of individuals polled said this type of training is important. The benefit to the company is it can expand knowledge which can result in better organizational processes and increased productivity.

The fix: Prioritize spending that can make your employees better at their job. Remember how much it costs to lose an employee? Keeping them and making them better at what they do will undoubtedly be a good investment.

12. Organization’s Commitment to Professional Development

Studies show that fewer business are investing in these types of benefits. Employees are more likely to feel eager at their jobs when they feel that their employer is invested in growing their careers.

The fix: Contributing to your employees’ profesional development shows an investment in their future that goes beyond your organization. Thanks to online educational solutions like Lynda.com, CreativeLive and Online Marketing Institute, to name a few, providing education doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. 

13. Career Development Opportunities

Developing career paths and ladders are ways to encourage a person to evolve. Thirty-nine percent of those polled consider this extremely important to their job satisfaction. Career development is especially important to Millennials and Generation Xers.

The fix: Ask your employees about their plans for the future. Identify areas in which you can work together to help them get there. They’ll be more appreciative than you think.

14. Career Advancement Opportunities Within the Organization

Almost half of employees (47 percent) report that career advancement opportunities are very important to their job satisfaction. Statistics show that Millennials and Gen Xers find this especially important. Thirty-three percent of people that said they are likely to look for a new job within the next year cite a lack of advancement opportunities as the main reason. 

The fix: If there aren’t immediate opportunities for growth within your business, think of ways you can create for them. Without an upward tragjectory, employees will feel much more inclined to disengage or leave. 


Enterprises that want to retain their employees should practice internal hiring, leadership development programs, mentoring and succession planning. These programs have proven to keep employees aligned with the organization’s goals, hungry for achievement and engaged with their coworkers and customers.

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