5 Ways to Keep Employees From Checking Out on the Job

Seven out of 10 employees are not engaged at work, according to recent research. Here are five ways to get your team engaged.

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By Victor Cheng


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever interacted with an employee at a local business who was checked-out? You know the type. You ask to pay, and they roll their eyes at you and act as if they're doing you a favor by taking your money.

Well, you're not alone. According to a recent Gallup poll on employee engagement, seven out of 10 U.S. workers aren't mentally showing up for work. While it's certainly annoying when you see this as a customer, when that employee works for you, it's an outright disaster. Checked-out employees convey a bad impression to customers, are more prone to making mistakes and worst of all, they become role models of disengagement for co-workers and new employees. According to Gallup, mentally checked-out employees cost $450 to $550 billion -- that's billion with a "B" -- in lost productivity every year.

Here are five steps to ensure that your employees are fully engaged in taking care of customers and getting the job done right the first time:

1. You get what you measure. If you aren't measuring engagement, don't be surprised that some of your employees aren't engaged. That which gets measured gets done. Every quarter, survey your employees and ask them three simple questions:

  1. Do you find your work here meaningful?
  2. Do you feel valued by your manager?
  3. Are you proud of what you do here?

You're looking for 80 percent or more of employees to answer yes to all three questions. If they don't, it means you have a problem with employees being checked out and need to take action. To ensure candor, have an outside party administer the survey on an anonymous basis.

2. Keep employees well informed. We all desperately seek to feel included and part of the group. When employees feel as if they're just tools for management to do what it pleases with them, their attitude toward work is equally unenthusiastic.

#insert related here#

Provide regular updates to all employees, much like you would to investors. An investor would never tolerate putting money in your company and not hearing back about how the business is doing. Why would you expect employees to react any differently? After all, your employees are investors too. They're investing their careers in your company. Keep them up-to-date on how things are going. When they feel included, they will be more engaged.

3. Involve employees in decisions that impact them. People support what they help build. Ask your employees for input on key decisions that impact them. In addition to getting valuable insight from them, the act of soliciting feedback on important decisions conveys that they, too, are a key part of building this company. To get more engaged employees, simply engage employees more.

4. Hold managers accountable. One of the main causes for employee disengagement is when they don't feel valued by managers. Make sure managers whose employees report low engagement scores are asked to take steps to engage employees on a one-to-one basis and to include them as part of the group.

5: Get rid of the bad apples. Some employees will never be engaged, no matter what you do. After you've done your part in creating an engaging work environment, it will become clear which employees are permanently checked out. It's time to replace them with people who want to mentally show up for work. On the flip side, be sure to reign in any employees who overstep their bounds. Be clear to them that this is an opportunity for them to provide input, not to lead a takeover of your company.

Nothing ruins office culture more quickly than the presence of a few people with bad attitudes.

Victor Cheng

Strategic Advisor

Victor Cheng is a former McKinsey consultant, author and co-founder of Entrepreneur-to-CEO Mastermind, a Seattle-based firm that advises entrepreneurs of fast-growing companies.

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