7(ish) Ways To Get To The Root Of Employee Disengagement 

Disengaged employees can be extremely problematic for companies. Although studies show employee engagement is on the rise, 18% of employees across industries are actively disengaged. 


According to Gallup, the most commonly cited reasons for employees disengaging at work are a lack of the following:

  • connection to the mission or purpose of the company
  • opportunities to do what employees do best
  • opportunities to learn and grow
  • feeling cared about at work
  • clarity of expectations  

If employers want their employees to engage more, they need to step up and proactively address these points of concern. 

In this article, we’ll explore six ways you can get to the root cause of employee engagement issues in your organisation. 

Conduct surveys and audits to find your starting point

Before you can fix a problem, you have to identify it. So first, use specialised surveys (like Gallup’s Q¹² to allow ‌employees to give you their perspective. Every employee should take surveys, including the C-suite. 

Honest responses are necessary. This means employees must feel safe to answer honestly. 

Ideally, a third-party should conduct the audit and surveys to avoid any bias and encourage a feeling of openness. For example, Gallup provides services like this and has many success stories, such as this one from Ameritas to their credit. 

Once surveys are complete, it’s time for conversations to start. 

Encourage conversations and listen more than you talk

Conversation is a two-way street, but when the conversation is between an employee and a manager (or other authority figure), it can often feel more like a one-way street or, worse yet, a do not enter. 

As a manager, you need to be hyper-aware of this dynamic and take extra steps to ensure your employees feel comfortable and safe when they need to speak to you. We’re not talking about physical safety. We’re talking about psychological safety

They need to feel secure enough that they can come to you about a work-related concern without fearing ridicule, discipline, or rebuke. You should always listen to employee concerns and take appropriate action when necessary.  

Listening matters. 

Remember, you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen twice as much as you talk.

Pent-up frustration and anger are often the roots of issues in any type of relationship, so naturally, it could cause issues in the workplace. Naturally, issues and annoyances will arise, and holding in their frustration may cause your employees to feel resentful or disengaged.

Prevent this resentment by encouraging employees to bring their problems to their peers or supervisors. As a manager, you can maintain an open-door policy and act as a mediator when needed. In this safe place, encourage candor and honesty, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

Challenging situations often are, but things will only deteriorate if left alone. Better to have an uncomfortable conversation in a safe environment than to allow things to boil over or fester.

If you notice team members not getting along or see or hear gossip or conversations that alert you to a potentially volatile situation, you must address it appropriately as quickly as possible. That could look like meeting with the involved parties individually and then meeting with them together in a mediation. 

It may also involve someone in higher management, depending on the situation. What matters is that everyone feels safe and the situation is resolved appropriately. 

These conversations are how you prevent employees from not feeling cared about at work. By taking the extra steps necessary to address difficult situations and ensure everyone’s needs are met, you demonstrate your commitment to your employees. 

Reassess their training and career development needs

As humans, we have the natural desire to be well-equipped and empowered to perform our work. This feeling goes for the professional world and beyond. That’s why a lack of opportunities to learn and grow at work is one of the top reasons for employee disengagement. 

Job training is fine, but beyond doing what’s in their job description, employees crave growth. Career development – learning skills that can lead to promotion – should be available for every employee. 

For example, what if an employee comes to you and asks about an opportunity to be promoted and what they need to do to qualify?

If you’re not paying attention, you may just rattle off the requisite details for that position and keep walking. But, if you are paying attention, you might stop and have a short conversation with this employee. 

Find out why they want to promote – are they interested in a long-term career with the company? How long have they been an employee (if you don’t already know)? What are their long-term goals? 

This brief conversation shows the employee that you care enough to ask and listen about their goals, you’re interested in their growth and development with the company, and you’re a good resource for them in the future. It also informs you on how this employee fits into company culture, where they might be best utilised, and how best to set them up for success.

Whether an internal team creates job training courses or employees are granted free access to external programs through universities or training companies, it’s vital to provide your employees with options.

Online courses are available everywhere, from LinkedIn Learning to Hubspot Academy you can find ways to upskill for free or very low-cost. Even some of the world’s top universities offer free courses.

Another aspect of training is to consider the influence of technology on specific careers. For example, artificial intelligence has had a huge impact on the marketing industry. With the development of platforms like ChatGPT, AI tools with the right prompts can now write copy and content well enough that many companies are choosing to use them rather than keep writers on their payrolls. 

With that in mind, training on AI tools or, at the very least, addressing employee concerns regarding technological advancements may also be necessary inclusions. 

What’s certain is that companies must keep an ear to the ground regarding the rapid changes occurring in the world of AI so they can, in turn, keep their employees well-informed and protected. 

Employers should prioritise transparency with their employees and help guide them through protections such as the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. Companies can also create their own policies to protect their employees as they protect other assets, including intellectual property, trade secrets, technologies, and more. 

These policies will only become more important as time goes on and as AI continues to evolve.

Build trust by making expectations clear

Communication is key for building trust in the workplace. Of course, you want to be able to trust your employees, but as their manager, they need to be able to trust you, too. You can build this trust by making expectations clear. 

When you give instructions, provide as many details as necessary. Then, ask employees for feedback immediately – “Does that make sense? Do you have questions?” Follow up as needed without micromanaging.

Tools like Notion and ClickUp can help develop and maintain clear standard operating procedures (SOPs), guidelines, and other standards in a common, easily accessible place. By creating standards and guidelines, you clarify your expectations and make it easy for employees to reference those expectations if they have questions. 

It also simplifies the process of accountability when you need to remind them of your standards. 

While standards and accountability are relatively simple in a central office scenario, many companies function as hybrid or remote workforces. In these cases, guidelines and SOPs are kept digitally and accountability meetings are held virtually via apps. 

Instant messaging tools are perfect for sharing updates and increasing visibility for the relevant teams and individuals. These commonly include Slack and Whatsapp.

When it comes to private chat with employees (e.g., one-on-one meetings) or team meetings, you can use Google Meet, Zoom or a typical office/ landline phone for such communication.  

Whatever you do, don’t leave people in the dark when it comes to a project or initiative that they are or should be involved in. Be clear about your expectations and do your best to set your employee(s) up for success.

Ensure your team feels valued

Remember that employee engagement requires your employees to feel valued and cared about. To achieve this, you must understand what they value (analyse surveys) and implement strategies to provide for those needs. 

Often, companies find that their employees have common interests and values – that’s what makes them a great team and creates a great work culture. Depending on those interests and values, you may find you need to provide things like more PTO, more team-building opportunities, or an on-site childcare facility. 

When you pay attention to what they value, and deliver on the things that matter to them, they, in turn, will want to engage more with the company. 

For example, Petco, as a pet-centered company, understands its employees value their pets as members of their family. So, when one passes away, the loss is a painful one. Petco offers every full-time employee eight hours (one work day) of pet bereavement leave when a pet passes, regardless of the type of pet. 

This is just one of the many pet-focused benefits Petco offers that make a real difference in the lives of their employees. 

Another example of a company that pays attention to what its employees value is Adobe. Adobe employees can take advantage of up to $10,000 per year for education expenses. They can also set aside pre-tax funds for their children’s college education. 

Additionally, Adobe also offers impressive child and family care benefits. Employees can set aside up to $5,000 pre-tax for child or elder care every year. They also assist in child care expenses for up to $1,200 annually for children up to 13 years old. 

How can your company make your employees feel valued? 

Create an environment in which employees feel connected to the company’s mission

When employees feel like they’re a part of a bigger mission and purpose, they’ll remain more engaged. For that to happen, they need to clearly understand the company’s mission and their part in the greater whole. 

A big part of the responsibility for that clarity, motivation, and continued encouragement falls on management. It’s up to you, as the manager, to ensure your employees understand the company’s mission and how they play a part in it. 

It’s up to you to keep them motivated and on task, answer questions, and maintain a positive environment where your team feels empowered. There are many ways to do this. 

For example, you can invite open conversations about how to further your mission and purpose in practical and tangible ways. Brainstorm with your team and ask them how they relate to the company’s mission.

As your company grows and evolves, make sure your employees are a part of that process and that their growth is evident in the company’s evolution as well. 

Bonus: Foster Good Relationships

Getting to the root of employee engagement issues and preventing further issues is made possible by maintaining a solid relationship with your team. Here are a few ways to make that happen.

Involve Teams in decision-making and show them you value their ideas

One of the most effective ways to build a good relationship with your employees is to involve them in decision-making processes. 

It can be as simple as asking for their input and feedback on important decisions or giving them the opportunity to take ownership and manage their own projects and tasks. This can be done in person at the office or via email or Slack message if your team is hybrid or remote. Set up reminder with your time clock app to share updates in groups with relevant teams and individuals. This way, you can see which team members are connected in real time and you can manage attendance more effectively. You can even program to send automatic alerts to employees as reminders. Without a doubt, employees will appreciate all the friendly reminders to ensure they participate in the decision-making process of the company.

But don’t allow a non-traditional workplace model to prevent you and your team from connecting and sharing ideas. 

Remember, when employees feel like their opinions and ideas are valued, they become more engaged and invested in the success of your organisation.

Tell your employees how much you value opinions and ideas, even if they speak on matters that may not directly relate to their roles. 

After all, you hired them because you saw the potential for their value-add to your organisation. And a great idea can come from any team member, so it’s important to encourage them to speak up.

And if they come up with a home-run idea that adds tremendous value to your organisation, don’t forget to recognise them for their efforts and give credit where credit is due. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recognise your employees and their efforts. Some people respond to promotions and raises, while other workers feel more satisfied by receiving regular verbal recognition, so exploring different options and seeing what works best for each person on your team is important. 

That said, sending flowers is a great way to let employees know you appreciate everything they do for your company. If you are on a budget, try sourcing flowers from local businesses. Companies like Norfolk Florist have a section of Thank You flowers perfect for showing your appreciation for your employees. 

Don’t underestimate these small gestures. 

Allow teams to make mistakes and learn from them

As much as we’d like to believe we’re immune from it, everybody makes mistakes. It’s part of being human.

Not to mention, mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Encourage them to take risks and try new things, even if it means they may fail. 

When mistakes happen, use them as an opportunity for growth and learning. As a leader, help employees understand what went wrong and how they can improve. 

By allowing employees to make mistakes and learn from them, you can create a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Have an open-door policy and respond to their needs

Let your employees know that your “door is always open.” Letting them know this policy upfront helps encourage them to come to you with their questions, concerns, and ideas. 

Make yourself available to listen to their feedback and offer support when needed. Because when employees feel supported and heard, they become more engaged and committed to their work.

In a hybrid or remote work environment, this might look like regular “office hours” when you’re available for phone calls or virtual meetings. This way, regardless of where your team is or what time it is in their part of the world, they know when they can reach you. 

Beyond being available and responsive, as an employer, you should also prioritise your employees’ wellbeing. This could mean flexible work hours, unlimited PTO, or exceptional benefits that include mental health and telehealth coverage. 

To determine what matters most to your team, you can take surveys and ask for suggestions quarterly or annually regarding what benefits or perks they’d most like to see implemented.

Provide personalised incentives and rewards

Employee motivation is key to any successful business, and providing incentives is a great way to keep your team engaged and excited about their work. 

However, not all incentives are created equal. Instead of offering generic rewards, consider getting to know your employees and their interests. When getting to know your employees, you can reward them with personalised gifts that truly match their passions.

For example, if you have a team of gamers, consider offering them gift cards for popular gaming sites like YUPLAY or even subscriptions to gaming magazines. This shows your employees that you appreciate their hard work and care about their individual interests outside of the office.

By giving personalised incentives, you boost morale and show your employees that you value their unique contributions to your company.

Key takeaways

We’ve reviewed the most common reasons for employees to disengage from work and how workplace leaders can combat those issues. 

With the six tips (and four bonus tips) we’ve suggested, your employees will begin to engage more and your team will get stronger by the day. 

Remember, it all starts with conversation and listening. And the listening is on you, as a leader. 

Let your employees know you hear them. That you care. And that you support them. 

As individuals and as team members, they’re a vital part of your company’s success. It’s only right that your company invests in their continued success as well. 

Author:  Guillaume Deschamps – Content Manager, Wordable.io & PR Manager, uSERP

Photo credit: Cottonbro studio

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