Why your team aren’t engaged
This is the first important issue to understand and address. There can be many reasons for a lack of engagement, so consider the below before writing someone off as a bit of a slacker. As their leader, it's most likely in your power to make changes and improvements for them.
- Stressful workload with very little support
- The job/company isn’t what they were expecting or what was promised
- Lack of professional growth (promotions, qualifications, training, opportunity etc.)
- Below average salaries/benefits or lack of opportunity for pay rises
- Doesn’t feel “in flow” in day to day work, is not seeing results
- Poor Line Manager or Team relationships
- Negative work environments with stress visible across the team
- A lack of flexibility in their work, hours or location
- Long commute time or working unsociable hours
- Stress outside of work in their family/personal life
- Everyone has different priorities
Find out what's important to every individual member of your team in their day to day work as well as their long-term career. This can vary drastically, even in staff at the same level and can include flexibility, work/life balance, being able to involve their partners/families in their work lives, listening to their stresses, helping them solve problems, spending one to one time with them, upskilling, fun in the office, team socials, feeling valued, being able to support other team members, autonomy and reassurance as well as the obvious promotions, pay rises and time off.
Don't blanket the team with your standards or those of your strongest employee, if you can tailor perks and management styles to suit everyone's core values then you'll likely have a happier workforce who feel more enabled to do the best they can. There are some great (and free) exercises that you could do with your team to assess their core values at work, not only ensuring that you're working to suit them but also that they don't differ to drastically from the values of your business.
How to spot a lack of engagement
It may seem basic, but monitor their performance, who’s putting in the hours and topping the productivity leagues? They’re probably engaged. Who’s dropped in productivity and is ready to leave before the bell rings? They may be disengaged. Don’t confuse these with employees who need more training, look for those who once stood out at the top but now average out in the middle, a drop like this could be a warning sign but whichever category they sit in, your team always need your support.
Distractions, phone checking, chatting with colleagues, online shopping, dragging out small tasks, over running breaks, a lack of positive and enthusiasm, no interest in attending out of work meetings/events and a reluctance to make improvements or take on advice are all smaller day to day signs, if anything will pull you away from your work, then it's clearly not engaging you. Disengaged employees also often stop working towards their goals/next promotion, it may seem strange is these achievements would in theory make them happy but self-motivation is one of the first things to go.
Keeping your team engaged from day one
As soon as someone joins your team, keeping them engaged should be a priority. Hiring the right people, sticking to what you promised them, and strong training/inductions are key. Don't kid yourself with "throwing them in at the deep end proves their strength", even top-level management need a good start to succeed.
Hold regular one to ones as well as conversations as a team to get updates, this way everyone knows you're listening. Make sure you have a set structure for these meetings, rushing into a vague chat won't instill confidence that you're taking their issues seriously. It sounds obvious but implement the changes where possible based on these meetings; these might only be small but will make a lot of difference to your staff. A catch up means nothing if nothing ever comes from it and one to ones would then no longer be taken seriously.
Find out what your team enjoy most about their work, where their skills lie and what brings them the best results. If you're able to identify these points early on, then you can adapt everyone's roles to what they're best at and what they enjoy. Focusing individuals this way is an excellent way to keep them engaged, it's impossible to remove every undesirable task from everyone's day as some level of admin/difficult conversations with clients will always be needed but getting them "in flow" will empower your workforce to do the best they can and really take pride in their work.
How to salvage poor engagement
There is no quick fix if someone has slipped deep into the pit of zero motivation, the best recipe for success is to take the right approach from the start. If you really feel you've tried everything and there's no pulling an individual back, sometimes it's better to part ways on good terms rather than let them remain in a negative place which can also be passed onto the rest of the office. I wish I had a one size fits all solution to offer but it really does take hard work to achieve engagement across an entire company, so build it and nurture it!