Workforce Disruption Management

3 core principles to conquer employee disengagement

5 min read

Disengagement drives many internal workforce disruptions, including unplanned turnover and burnout. Negativity can be contagious: by the time employers know about a problem, it’s often already spread.

To minimize the impact, it’s critical to spot warning signs early and take the right action at the right time. That requires clear insight into your work climate: in other words, how closely your work environment matches both your employees’ expectations and your own.

Unfortunately, most employers lack effective ways to measure and address work climate. How can you get better results? Let’s explore three key principles to prevent employee engagement issues from disrupting your workforce.

Focus on root causes, not symptoms

Many employers operate in the dark when it comes to employee engagement.

Employee surveys, the usual method of choice, tend to ask vague questions that skirt the real issues facing your people. They focus on surface measures of employee loyalty and engagement, such as eNPS—but they don’t dig into the underlying sources of dissatisfaction. As a result, they produce non-actionable data more often than not.

In addition, employees don’t always voice the real reasons for their discontent. For example, someone who complains about their pay may actually be struggling with too many responsibilities. A higher paycheck may not be enough if you fail to address their workload.

For more reliable and actionable insights, look beyond the outward signs of unhappiness. Instead, seek out the root causes that lead people to quit or drift away from their jobs.

As in any relationship, many problems stem from frustrated employee expectations. Employees have certain ideas about proper workloads, communication, relationships, and schedules, just as you have standards for their performance. When reality strays too far from those expectations, it can lead to behaviors that contradict your goals.

While employee disengagement can have other causes, unmet expectations reflect concrete conditions you can influence and control. By focusing on these root causes, you can base your decision making on factors that affect what employees actually do, and you can accurately measure the impact of any actions you take.

Develop a process to monitor work climate

Now, you know what you want to measure. But how are you going to measure it? That’s a challenging question given all the factors in play.

Expectations and experiences vary from person to person, team to team. Internal conditions and outside events are always shifting. People may face different challenges every month, every week, or even every day. Quarterly or semi-annual surveys can’t keep up with this complex and fast-changing reality, so the data they produce tends to be out of date, inaccurate, and non-actionable.

So, what’s the alternative? Build a process to monitor work climate in real time. Such a process will enable you to gain early warning and make accurate, timely decisions.

Your process should be:

  • Continuous: To make effective decisions, you need both to see what’s happening in your workforce right now and to understand trends over time. That means gathering the right data every day or week—not just every quarter or semi-annually.

  • Consistent: Commit to monitoring a single set of core variables that mirror the root causes of employee engagement or disengagement. A consistent record will help you spot patterns and make meaningful comparisons among different people, teams, or time periods.

  • Complete: Generate a comprehensive picture from the ground up by gathering data from every person in your workforce. Managers can use this knowledge to tackle challenges at an individual level or within their teams. Executives can home in on broader issues across units and departments.

An effective monitoring process requires well-planned procedures and workflows. In addition, it involves the strategic use of technology to deliver the timely, actionable information you need.

Simplify your pathways to action

No matter what data you gather, your efforts will fail if they complicate life for decision makers. Managers and executives are already overstretched. They can’t afford to manage one more system or dataset that requires constant oversight.

Consider these strategies to simplify your process:

  • Ensure centralized access to real-time data, insights, and tools. Strive for a unified solution that consolidates all these resources in one place, while eliminating systems of marginal value.

  • Don’t spread your data gathering too thin. Instead, focus on a limited set of variables that really matter. By targeting expectations, you can simplify your analysis while getting to the heart of the matter.

  • Reduce the need for active monitoring by bringing actionable data to your decision makers. Use alerts to ensure the right information flows to the people who need it, exactly when they need it. Put the right tools at their fingertips, so they can act as soon as problems emerge.

In short, any system you adopt should minimize the barriers to decision making and action. Simplicity doesn’t equate to less power. In fact, a simple solution often enables you to act faster and tackle problems more efficiently.

Taking control of employee engagement

To conquer everyday workforce disruptions, you need to address problems at their source and act fast to keep problems such as turnover from escalating. Such an approach includes a focus on root causes, a strong monitoring process, and simple pathways to action.

A balanced work climate doesn’t mean responding to every demand. As an employer, you also need to ensure your legitimate expectations are being met. But whatever decisions you make, you want to base them on the most timely and accurate information possible.

The final step is to integrate employee engagement with a clear, active plan to monitor and manage all types of workforce disruptions. By taking a holistic approach, you can achieve even greater efficiency and keep your workforce running on all cylinders.