It seems that an employee’s level of engagement has more implications than learning leaders might expect, according to new research.
Four years ago, 41 percent of actively disengaged employees surveyed by HR Solutions said they were worried about job security. Today, this percentage has dropped by nearly half to 21 percent. Meanwhile, actively engaged employees appear to be doubly concerned about job security than before, jumping from 6 percent of respondents to 14 percent.
“What we have found is that engaged people truly understand what’s going on in the economy and what’s going on with the outside influences [on the] organization because they’re entrenched, and they really are interested in seeing how the organization itself is attacking and addressing the economic challenges that are out there,” explained Chris Dustin, executive vice president of sales and consulting for HR Solutions. “The actively disengaged folks are really kind of burying their heads in the sand. They’re really not taking a proactive approach or looking at what’s truly happening and what the impact is to them as an employee.”
Because of this, actively disengaged employees can be narrow-minded when it comes to understanding workplace decisions.
“A lot of organizations have had to put on hiring freezes. What does that do to the actively disengaged employees? Well, [they say], ‘They can’t let us go because they’re going to need us,’” Dustin said. “They can get away with some of the performance issues that they’re having based upon the fact that the organization needs the bodies. [So] even though they’re probably negatively affecting everything else that’s going on, some organizations are sitting back and saying, ‘Well, we need to have people out there to get the work done; even if they’re not performing at the highest level, there they are.’”
This situation could potentially lead to an organization that is less productive and engaged, as the hardworking, loyal employees are preoccupied with job security and the disengaged have even less motivation at work. Or, it could lead to the most valuable employees stampeding out the door when the economic situation improves.
However, learning leaders have a way to prevent this from happening, Dustin said.
“What we’ve started to see is that the B-players, the ambivalent folks, some of them are recognizing the need to step up because they don’t want to lose their jobs,” he said. “If you’ve got an organization that is proactively communicating what they’re doing to address the economy, how they’re trying to improve efficiencies, [showing them] some decisions that [the company] had to make as an executive team to ensure that [it] can still be financially stable and provide [them] with job security — those are the organizations that are really helping those B-players.”
And an increase in engagement among ambivalent workers will lead to higher overall levels of organizational commitment.
Learning executives also should help employees understand where they fall on the engagement scale, as well as coach managers to become better career developers — as this will lead to increased engagement.
“A lot of times what we see is that the managers are not having a proactive conversation with the employees to discuss career development,” Dustin said. “That’s where training organizations can help coach and guide managers to be better career developers. If they can [do that], organizations see a much higher level of engagement.”