Tag Archives: disengagement

The Real Cost of Disengagement

A young, seemingly fast-rising junior executive had been working at a large bank for just over six years. When he was asked about his job and how he felt about it he said, “The job’s OK.”

His lack of enthusiasm was evident, and when pressed to say more he added, “Well, I’m not really learning much anymore.”

When asked if he was fully-engaged he said probably not but went on to say that he still did a great job. “I still give 100% and consider myself to be a great employee,” he said. Then, after a short pause, he added,” But I don’t give them 110%… and there’s a big difference between 100% and 110% — at least for me.”

When asked if he was out looking for a new position he responded, “No…, but I’m listening.”

When asked whether he told his boss about how he was feeling he said, “Yeah, but….”

How many people in how many places feel like he does? He is bright, educated, skilled, well-liked, and might be an ideal candidate for a senior leadership position…if he stays.

But is he being made to feel like an important part of the team? Does anyone realize that he could be giving more? Is he being engaged in an intentional or formalized fashion?

Among the many documented advantages of an engaged worker are loyalty and the discretionary effort that they put forth; going the extra mile; the above-and-beyond attitude… giving 110%! How many innovative ideas might that extra 10% yield? How much more productivity? What impact might it have on customers or coworkers?

The Real Cost of Disengagement

And if he doesn’t stay, the simple replacement costs are not the real issue. He is a potential super-star! He is a known-entity… trustworthy, dependable, low-risk. What are the real (or hidden!) costs associated with disengagement; the costs of not getting 110%… the costs of not only lost workers, but also of lost opportunities?

The Real Cost of Disengaged Workers

While employee engagement has been the topic of several posts, including our previous one, it is less common to hear people speak in specific terms about the real, often hidden, costs associated with disengagement.

During recent meetings with our Partners in Improvement these costs were discussed in detail. The Partners concluded that disengaged employees create a negative and expensive ripple effect throughout an organization, and drive-up costs five specific ways:

  1. Higher turnover: Disengaged employees leave their employers as soon as they see a better opportunity. This turnover increases the costs of recruiting, on-boarding, and training, which typically range between 16% – 22% of salary for low-to-mid-level employees, and significantly more for higher-level executives based on a Center for American Progress study.In addition, every new hire brings a risk of a bad fit, and every employee leaving an organization takes with him or her some organizational knowledge that might have been helpful to that organization in future decisions.
  2. Lower productivity, lower profitability: Disengaged employees don’t go the extra mile; they do not make an extra effort when faced with a challenge, and don’t put forth the same discretionary effort that an engaged person will make. A 2013 article from the Harvard Business Review concluded that organizations that cultivate high employee engagement yield a 22% increase in productivity over the norm.
  3. Little or no process improvement: Improvement requires engagement — a willingness to design and conduct experiments, a willingness to take risks to try something new and potentially better. However, disengaged employees tend to focus on their personal agendas and see little upside in trying something new to forward the organization’s goals.
  4. Higher pay: When we say about someone, “They are only in it for the money,” we are observing disengagement. While money is important to nearly everyone, if that is the only motivation, there is no genuine engagement. As the behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, said, “Money is the most expensive way to motivate someone.” Organizations that are unable to create an environment that intrinsically engages their employees must pay them more to keep and motivate them.
  5. The associated cost of lost opportunities is difficult to calculate; but it is significant and probably far greater than any of the direct costs outlined above.

In our next post we’ll share five ways to reduce these costs.