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Engaging the disengaged worker


In a recent company gathering, supervisors and managers all expressed the same lament: How do we get employees motivated and excited about coming to work and getting the job done? How do we engage the disengaged worker? To understand that question and find the answer requires an understanding of the needs and wants of employees.{{more}}

What does a worker want from a job? The first answer is to get paid. Work is a contract between an employer and employee where there is an exchange: the employer offers money and benefits and the employee offers skills and service. Most employers honour their contract and pay wages, but an astoundingly high number of employees break the deal. They get paid but do not offer their skills and service regularly and do not perform at their best. Let’s examine the reasons.

Besides being paid, employees want to be respected, to feel appreciated, and to have room to grow. When any of these elements is absent, the paycheck is not enough to motivate and push a worker to perform well.

Respect: Everyone knows how to spell respect because of Aretha Franklin’s song, but few people know what it looks like in the workplace. Employees want a platform where they can present their ideas and see results from their suggestions. They want to know that the quality of work they produce is valued and admired within the department and company. They want supervisors and managers to listen and understand their concerns and challenges on the job. Communication is the major component in respectful treatment.

Appreciation: There is a misconception that employees want big, expensive gifts from their employers. But most workers are grounded enough to know that simple gestures carry a lot of weight. The liberal use of the words “thank you,” “please,” and “great job,” when used appropriately and in a timely fashion, can be worth more than a bonus check for some employees.

Another way to show appreciation for the hard-working people who want to excel is to remove the people or obstacles that hinder their efforts. Of course, bonuses, food and gift certificates work well.

Room to Grow: Workers who become disengaged in the workplace often feel stagnant. They have no new professional goals to strive for and they can no longer move up in the organization. This is especially true in small, family-owned companies. Supervisors and managers must get creative and work with employees to offer new experiences and allow people to acquire new skills and knowledge.