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Credit: Ketut Subiyanto

This article is based on McKinsey research; link given at the end.

In the last post, we saw that disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees; 56% vs 44%. We know from experience that in Pakistan, this ratio is even more unfavorable. Let us first look at the disengagement drivers and what can be done with these. It is important to first stop bleeding before starting the treatment.

In the order of occurrence, the research enlists 12 factors which cause financial cost of employee disengagement resulting from lost work, lost time, lost projects, lost opportunities, turnover, new hiring, and onboarding etc. Each item has a cost attached to it. Upper 6 factors contribute 63% to the loss, while lower 6 contribute 38% – fractions may vary.

I am giving below US data based on research, and Pakistan estimates based on experience. Data is our weakest link in all cases.

            Disengagement Driver                                   US                   PAK

  1. Inadequate total compensation                     12%                 12%
  2. Lack of meaningful work                                12%                 7%
  3. Lack of workplace flexibility                           11%                 4%
  4. Lack of career development/advancement   10%                 10%
  5. Unreliable, unsupportive colleagues              9%                   8%
  6. Unsafe work environment                              9%                   12%
  7. Non-inclusive, unwelcoming community       8%                   5%
  8. Lack of support for health & wellbeing          7%                   3%
  9. Uncaring and uninspiring leaders                   7%                   12%
  10. Unsustainable work expectations                  6%                   12%
  11. Lack of geographic ties and travel demands  6%                   3%
  12. Inadequate resource availability                    4%                   12%

Research estimates that if organizations addressed only the 6 major factors, they could save up to $56 million annually. In our case, again data unavailability is a handicap. We can safely assume though that our organizations are also losing lot of money due to this.

These steps may be recommended/ considered to handle disengagement drivers which may also in turn promote engagement.

  • Strong people leaders are the key. They are connected to their teams at multiple levels, keep a pulse on the morale and wellbeing, and make people valued. Their people orientation motivates them to struggle for better compensation packages. Such leaders ensure that career path of every team member is defined and designed and steer them towards these through role changes, assignments and opportunities. Of course, strong people leaders inspire their teams and help them to learn and develop themselves. If we calculate from the above chart, a highly developed, strong people leader can tackle almost half of the drivers, both in number and percentage. Leadership is where we have lost the most, and it shows not just in the corporates but the country also. Weak, manipulative, oppressive leaders are producing more leaders like them thereby causing perpetuity of evil long into the future.
  • Equity, fair play, and justice is the key. High, consistent performers lose motivation when they see those who are not performing well get the same reward; in some cases, they may even get better reward. This is what equity theory says and what we always observe along time. These things are not secret in any organization, rather these become known immediately after the decisions are taken. It is often said in the corporates that horses must be differentiated from asses, but practically it does not happen, and it is feared that higher rewards to high performers shall upset the low performers. What an irony? Over time, employees lose trust in the organization and start behaving in counterproductive ways. The employers should understand that most individuals are not inherently toxic; rather the actions of the organization are creating toxic effect.
  • Career development is the key. First step is to develop career tracks for various positions, and then employees should be offered resources, support, and opportunities for career growth. Given similar growth environment to all employees will still result in marked difference between individuals, which is based on inner capacity, innate ambition, and the will to sustain. But the employees shall not have a reason to complain that they did not get the opportunity.
  • Caring, and empathy is the key. When employees feel their genuine issues are not being listened to, and not being addressed, they rebel and start a vicious cycle that reinforces their negative behavior within the organizational ecosystem. In the process, they become productivity and energy vampires, sucking the motivation out of work and workers around them.
  • Minimizing, eliminating discrimination is the key. Privately owned businesses especially suffer due to excessive use of discrimination. From hiring decisions to compensation packages to plum assignments to increments and promotions, discretion rather than performance prevails. This is worse than inequity mentioned in the second point. It causes active disengagement and rage leading to damaging of the organization’s assets and wasting of company resources. After a while when nothing changes, then feeling of helplessness seeps in causing severely fallen morale, lethargy, and procrastination. Deadlines are missed deliberately, and timelines are botched with unnecessary delays.

Sum Up

We can easily conclude that disengagement is not uncommon. We also see that causing disengagement is not so difficult; even few missteps can trigger the process. Once the process of disengagement sets in in any organization, it is quite difficult to reverse the process. However, the recovery must be done anyway to stem further disengagement and regain lost ground.

In the next post, we shall discuss about promoting engagement.


Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.


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