Understand How to Identify Unengaged Employees … Because They Are Costing You

Understand How to Identify Unengaged Employees … Because They Are Costing You

Posted by Stephen Spiegel on Feb 24, 2022



Unengaged employees pose HR risks, and the problem doesn’t seem to be going away. Here’s how much it could be costing you.

Key Takeaways:
  • Only 21% of employees report being highly engaged at work, meaning the overwhelming majority of your workers are not fully plugged in all week
  • While an engaged employee is an asset to your company, an unengaged one negatively affects the workplace and your business
  • According to research, disengaged employees are more likely to be absent from work, less profitable, and less productive, all of which translate to fewer dollars for your business

According to research carried out by Achievers, only 21% of employees report that they are highly engaged at work. The rest of the workforce, which makes up the overwhelming majority, are only there for the paycheck and are doing just enough to avoid being fired. They are not likely to ever go above and beyond what the company primarily expects from them.

Why is this reality an urgent situation for company founders and leaders? An engaged employee is a valuable asset for any company. However, an unengaged employee is a drain on resources and revenue.

Unengaged employees negatively affect the workplace environment and your business. They adversely affect the bottom line and pull the company back in terms of productivity and overall margin.

As if that is not enough, they are more likely to leave for another job, increasing your turnover rate.

Here are some more numbers to consider:

How much do unengaged employees cost your company?

Unengaged employees constitute a cost to companies, but it can be difficult to know just how much. According to Gallup research, disengaged employees are 37% more absent at work, 18% less productive, and 15% less profitable than their engaged counterparts.

In terms of dollars, the cost of this behavior translates to 34% of a disengaged worker’s annual salary.

To put that in concrete terms, consider that the average American annual salary is $47,000, and 34% of $47000 is $15,980.

That’s what a single unengaged employee who earns at the national average would cost your company each year: almost $16,000. The more they earn, the more they cost you each year.

These are scary numbers for a single employee, but it gets scarier when you apply the math to an entire company such as yours.

Let’s assume you head a company that employs 200 people. According to the data from the Achiever’s study cited above, only 21% of your employees are engaged, meaning 79% are unengaged in their work.

That 79% translates to 158 of your 200 employees.

Assuming they all earn the national average of $47,000 a year, that would mean that all your unengaged employees are costing you a total of 158 x $47,000, which equals $7,426,000 every year.

Spotting the leak: 8 signs that show an employee is unengaged

There are some tell-tale signs which you can look out for that an employee is not fully engaged.

  • 1. Withdrawal

Unengaged employees will frequently pull away from all non-essential conversations or activities at the office. They do only what is enough to get by and will reduce their productivity to reflect that reality. 

Leaders have to get to the underlying factors causing such behavior, especially if it is recurring, in order to coach these employees back into engagement.

  • 2. Lack of initiative

One of the strongest signs of disengagement is lack of initiative. Be on the lookout for employees who never stray beyond the bare minimum expected from them at the office.

A sincere conversation with such candidates could reveal the reasons they fail to take initiative while at work as well as things the employee really cares about where their job is concerned. All these can be used in motivating the employee.

  • 3. Poor communication

Unengaged employees often show reluctance to engage in one-on-one meetings, participate in team meetings, and avoid “the meeting after the meeting” where co-workers linger to communicate what should have been explored in the team meeting, among others. 

  • 4. Negative attitude

Unengaged employees are more likely to complain and find fault in everything around them. They are sometimes very difficult to be around and always have something negative to say – even about positive things that happen at the office.

  • 5. Inconsistent routine

Engaged employees can be counted on and are generally reliable in their routines, unengaged employees are not. In fact, a sudden change from a consistent routine is a possible sign of lack of engagement.

Routines that could suddenly change include a vocal employee suddenly staying mute during team meetings or a star salesperson slipping in performance. While change can sometimes be a good thing, it also merits closer attention from company leaders to better understand what’s happening.

  • 6. Playing the blame game

Unengaged employees walk around with excuses in their back pocket. They always have an excuse for each setback, never accept responsibility for their poor performance, and will point fingers at co-workers whenever possible.

Unengaged employees will make other employees feel bad for mistakes they made.

  • 7. Absenteeism

There are a lot of reasons why an employee might not show up at the office, so absenteeism should be taken with a grain of salt. However, engaged employees are more likely to show up than their unengaged counterparts.

Once the occasional absenteeism becomes a pattern, it’s time to take a closer look or have a chat.

  • 8. Complacency

Complacency is a strong sign of disengagement at work. Employees who are fully aware of the expected attitude and culture yet are unwilling to comply are most likely disengaged.

Contact Crewhu for help getting unengaged employees back on track

Identifying unengaged employees is the first step toward tackling the problem of employee engagement in your company. If you’re in search of actionable tips on how to solve employee engagement in your company, read Crewhu’s resource guide here.

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