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How to Turn Not-So-Engaged’ Employees Into Engaged Advocates: 5 Powerful Tips for Leaders

Truly engaged employees are rare. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. New Zealand, Australia and the United States have the highest levels of engaged employees among the countries surveyed, at 23%, 24% and 30% respectfully.

Why should you care? Unfortunately, actively disengaged employees are pathologically nonchalant and even out to sabotage your company. Not only are they unhappy at work, but they are intent on acting out their unhappiness. They monopolize managers’ time and energy with their whining and, in far too many instances, drive away customers. On the other hand, engaged employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the employees who drive productivity and innovation, and who keep your business competitive. However, no matter what your engaged employees do — such as solve problems, innovate, and create new customers — actively disengaged employees intentionally work to undermine … and you can be sure they are recruiting other employees to join them. And guess who the obvious candidates for enrollment are? Your “Not-So-Engaged” employees, who are trying to decide how involved and committed they want to be.

Not-so-engaged employees are an untapped resource for businesses to improve their performance and profitability. Not-so-engaged workers can be difficult to spot, but here are a few descriptions that might help you:

  • They are not overtly hostile or disruptive and likely do just enough to fulfill their job requirements;
  • They generally sleepwalk through their day;
  • They are uninspired and too often lack motivation to contribute in meaningful ways;
  • They have little or no concern about customers, productivity, profitability, safety, teamwork ,or quality.
  • They are thinking about lunch, or their next break, or what they’re going to do after work, and have essentially ‘checked out.’



Converting this group of employees into engaged workers is one of the most effective strategies any company can implement
to increase performance and sustainable long-term growth. From my experience, these ‘almost engaged’ employees
are salvageable and can be converted to the ranks of engaged employees.

Increasing Engagement Should be a Strategic Priority

Here’s why this matters so much! Researchers who studied nearly 1.4 million employees confirmed the well-established connection between employee engagement and the following key performance outcomes:

• customer ratings
• profitability
• productivity
• turnover rate
• safety incidents
• shrinkage (theft)
• absenteeism
• patient safety incidents
• quality (defects)

Gallup researchers studied the differences in performance between engaged and actively disengaged employees and found that those companies scoring in the top half on employee engagement nearly doubled their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half. No surprise there! Right! Here are the stats:

Employees in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed those in the bottom-quartile by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in over-all productivity. Employees in the top quartile also saw significantly less turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations and 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).

5 Tips Leaders Can Use to Transform ‘Not-So-Engaged’ into ‘Actively Engaged’

If you agree that employees truly are your company’s best asset, then their care and support should be a priority. True engagement starts with every person at every level. Employees don’t check their personalities, work philosophy, or interests at the door when they come to work. Knowing that they are respected and valued as individuals at work can have a significant impact on whether they move from disengaged and/or ‘somewhat’ engaged employees. Each employee’s potential extends well beyond his or her job description. And tapping that potential determines to what extent an employee’s unique set of beliefs, talents, goals, and life experiences drives his or her performance, personal success, and well-being.

Managers and leaders must be engaged themselves. How else will they know their people — who they are and not just what they do? Every interaction with an employee has the potential to influence his or her level of engagement. How leaders manage their employees substantially affects engagement levels in the workplace. Here are five strategies you can use to help build a committed constituency of engaged employees:


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1. Don’t simply rely on an employee engagement survey. When a company asks its employees for their opinions, employees expect action. However, businesses often make the mistake of using employee surveys to collect data that is irrelevant or impossible to act on. On top of that, they fail to provide feedback to the very employees whose opinions they were seeking! If you use a formal survey, be sure you are measuring the right things, and making measurable actions based on the feedback. But an even better way to gauge employee engagement is to be actively involved and fully present with your people!

2. Focus on engagement at all organizational levels. Real change occurs when there’s legitimate coordination and commitment at all levels. And long term change happens only when company leaders set the tone from the top. Companies realize the most benefit from engagement initiatives when leaders weave employee engagement into performance expectations for managers and give direct reports the ability to meet those expectations. Managers and employees must feel empowered to make a significant difference in their immediate environment. Leaders and managers should work with employees to identify barriers to engagement and opportunities to effect positive change. Employees must become familiar with the company’s processes, systems, products, and customers in order to deliver improved performance, business innovation, and create better workplace experiences. Chances are, if your managers aren’t engaged, their employees won’t be either!

3. Schedule regular one-on-ones with your employees, to talk about the value of what they do and discuss their future goals. The best managers understand that their success and that of the organization relies on employees’ achievements. Extraordinary managers care about their people’s successes. They seek to understand each employee’s strengths and provide employees with every opportunity to use their strengths, talents, and abilities in their role. Extraordinary managers empower their employees, recognize and value their contributions, and actively seek their ideas and opinions. They ensure that every employee fully understands the impact of what they do, and why it is important to the success of the company.

4. Hold people accountable for their engagement. Gallup’s research has consistently found that managers are primarily responsible for their employees’ level of engagement. Companies must coach managers to take an active role in cultivating genuine engagement, hold managers accountable, track their progress, and ensure that they continuously focus on emotionally engaging their employees. But employees have a role to play in their own engagement. Once they clearly understand what the expectations of their job are, and have the skills and tools to perform what is expected, it is important to hold them accountable.

5. Define engagement goals in realistic, everyday terms. To make engagement an organizational fact and not fiction, leaders must make engagement goals meaningful to employees’ day-to-day experiences. Describing clearly what success looks like, using powerful descriptions and inspiring language, helps give meaning to goals and builds commitment. Managers must discuss employee engagement at weekly meetings, in action-planning sessions, and in one-on-one meetings with employees to weave engagement into the workplace’s DNA.

To sum it up:

Leaders in the best companies strategically align their employee engagement efforts. They find ways to communicate engagement’s effect throughout the year and share best practices across the organization. They use every opportunity and communication channel to reinforce and recognize their organization’s commitment to employee engagement. They integrate employee engagement fully into the business’ over-all competitive lexicon.

If employees truly are your company’s best asset, then your leaders and managers should make caring for them a priority. You have an extraordinary opportunity to transform your employees’ work experiences into ones that are fulfilling and motivating — and that allow your employees to bring their best to work every day.









© 2018 Cher Holton,

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©2018 Holton Consulting Group, Inc.

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