So you’ve got what you believe to be a productive, engaged workforce – a tight group of people with whom you have great relationships and who are willing to go the extra mile to deliver the goods. But lately, you’ve noticed that Janine has been turning up late quite often, citing a variety of unlikely excuses for her absence, and you’ve been getting your fair share of complaints from customers, whose stories certainly don’t echo the happy-go-lucky atmosphere you’ve worked so hard to curate.
Employee engagement is a very tricky art to master, and one that can be easily derailed by just one or two dissatisfied individuals, whose negativity and apathy can cause a rapid knock-on effect amongst their co-workers. It only takes a couple of complaints – a few words whispered in someone’s ear here, a discussion about underpayment there – to send your workplace into a negative spiral that can’t quickly be remedied.
As such, it’s vital that you know how to spot the warning signs so as to prevent dissatisfaction spreading amongst your workforce. Of course, this is often easier said than done, as many disengaged employees tend not to openly share the reasons for their discontent, consequently allowing it to fester and seep into the foundation of a business’s culture.
So how do you keep tabs on your employees and ensure you take a proactive stand against dissatisfaction? Here are 4 clear warning signs you should never ignore, as well as a few tips to help you effectively redress the balance:
Playing the blame game
Keep your ears peeled for the mention of the word ‘they’. It might seem innocuous enough at first, but it’s a telltale sign that your employee is ascribing blame to others – and in most cases, your company. Employees who habitually blame their employers for everything from overwork to underpay are high-risk individuals, whose discontent can quickly filter through your ranks. In the majority of instances, these employees simply feel like their voices aren’t being heard – something that can be easily turned around by taking them aside and asking them to share their grievances as well as potential solutions. Give your employees the opportunity to change the way things work in your workplace, and you’ll soon start to see them taking more responsibility (and blame if necessary) for their own actions.
Distraction & inaction
That employee who can frequently be seen wandering around purposelessly, popping out for 3-hour lunch breaks and spending inordinate amounts of time making personal calls is definitely one to watch. This type of behavior is a classic sign of disengagement, and usually arises as a result of the individual feeling unchallenged by the work they’re doing. So how do you rectify this? Firstly, you need to sit them down and think about ways in which their role can be expanded or amended to cater better to their specific strengths and areas of interest. Secondly, it’s vital to reinforce to them the role that they play within the company as a whole, offering up a clear sense of purpose for what might otherwise seem like a trivial occupation.
Whilst discontent can be quite easily hidden within the bounds of the workplace, it’s far harder to conceal from your customers. As such, it’s important for you to keep an ear to the ground and to be constantly aware of consumer sentiment regarding your business. Your employees might not express their dissatisfaction readily, but your customers undoubtedly will, and it’s best that you nip this problem in the bud before it becomes a full-blown PR debacle. But rather than monitoring phone calls and micro-managing all customer interactions, consider getting to the bottom of the problem at hand. Whether you do this via one-on-one meetings or employee surveys, it’s vital that you understand what’s causing discontent within your ranks, and make conscious attempts to rectify them based on feedback.
When a previously reliable achiever in your workplace starts to miss targets and deadlines, it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Dissatisfaction often reveals itself in the form of apathy, something that can come about as a result of countless factors. Perhaps there’s a poor employee-manager relationship that’s causing this reduced enthusiasm? Maybe there are personal problems at play? Or is it a case of this person feeling that their super-human efforts have gone unnoticed in the past? Whatever the case may be, you’d be well advised to analyse the matter further, engaging directly with the individual so as to identify and rectify any potential issues that could end up have far-reaching effects. Ultimately, your ability to listen and adapt to your employees’ needs will enable you to effectively maintain high levels of engagement – so stay vigilant and be willing to invest time and energy in the upkeep of your corporate culture