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Talent Development

How to Turn Bored Employees Into Top Performers

Take a step back from your day-to-day workload and ask yourself, “Is my team really engaged?” 

On average, 64 percent of employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged. That reality costs American businesses millions of dollars, especially since the majority of those disengaged team members are looking for other work.

If you’re going to maximize your revenue this year, you can’t afford to allow your team to languish. If you do, you’ll risk becoming another victim of the Great Resignation and failing to hit your business objectives.

Here’s how to identify the problem, increase employee retention, and turn bored, burnt out, or disengaged staff into top performers.

Recognizing the problem

The first step to re-engaging your employees is understanding who’s disengaged and why. 

There are two kinds of disengagement. The first, active disengagement, is easiest to recognize and makes up a smaller percentage of disengaged employees. You might notice:

  • Higher absenteeism
  • Bad attitude and frequent complaining
  • Lack of enthusiasm at work
  • Regularly uses work time for personal pursuits like social media, chatting, or phone calls

Over half of your employees are not “actively disengaged,” however, they are “not engaged.” That means they’re blending in, doing just enough to avoid getting in trouble, and good at saying what the boss wants.

Some signs of non-engagement include:

  • Little initiative to take on new challenges
  • Frequent trips to the break room
  • Doesn’t share new ideas or participate in brainstorming
  • Doesn’t seem interested in learning new things at work
  • Declining performance

Once you’ve recognized the problem, it’s time to look for solutions. There are several steps you can take to offset employee boredom and disengagement.

1. Find creative ways to listen

Traditional ways of getting feedback often don’t work when you’re dealing with disengaged team members. Many of them will be used to saying what the leader wants to hear, while others will be happy to complain about everything from the parking to their colleagues.

Rather than trying to have a one-on-one meeting or run employee surveys, think outside the box to get information on burnout and workplace boredom.

Check review sites

Employees often talk about their work experience online, and there are platforms that allow them to do so directly. Sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and Comparably can give you an inside look into what people are saying about your company and help you pinpoint where the problems are. It’s important to focus on using feedback constructively and not punish the employees who share honestly.

Talk to new hires

New hires are typically more engaged and often haven’t developed a bias or masking behavior to hide their true feelings. That means your new staff can be your best source of information. Again, this should be used to get a true picture of how the organization is operating, rather than to manipulate your employees or turn them against each other.

“We check in with all of our new hires after their first month to gain insight on everything from their onboarding experience to how they’re acclimating to their new role and the company as a whole.”

 

– Sam Popcke, Senior Manager – People Success, WorkRamp

Social listening

Sometimes your teams will share information about your business in unofficial ways, such as through comments on social media. By using social listening software, you can find out more about your brand reputation both internally and externally.

2. Review management behavior

As the saying goes, “People don’t quit a job, they quit a manager.” That means the first step to re-engaging your employees is taking a look at the management team and helping them improve.

Start by doing a 360 Survey or similar approach to get anonymous feedback from your employees about each leader. This will give leaders a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses from the employee’s perspective. It’s common for successful people to be blind to specific shortcomings, so don’t take the results personally. It’s all about improving.

Once you’ve pinpointed specific areas for each manager to improve, it’s time to take action. This might mean having leaders work on new habits or taking time to praise employees for good work. 

It could also mean learning additional skills, whether that’s emotional empathy, how to have difficult but constructive conversations, or how to avoid micromanagement. A strong Learning Management System (LMS) can allow your leaders to learn on their own schedule and take the time they need to really absorb the new ideas.

3. Encourage professional goal setting

Sometimes all it takes to re-engage an employee and improve job satisfaction is having a one-on-one discussion about their professional goals and helping them create a plan to get there. Don’t stop there, either—let the employee talk about what it would mean to them to reach those goals, and what improvements would come in their personal and professional life.

As employees set and embrace new goals, you may find that they are newly energized and motivated in their work. However, their enthusiasm will quickly fade if you don’t follow through on the opportunities and training you’ve promised.

The right LMS can allow you to create a personalized training and development plan for each employee, showing them what they need to learn next and what’s coming up in the future. It also provides a record of the training they’ve already completed, giving a sense of accomplishment and making it easier to highlight these new skills in internal job opportunities.

Help your employees rediscover a sense of purpose in their work by allowing them to create a vision of what the future could be, and them give them the opportunity to work toward it. The right training opportunities can make a talented employee unstoppable.

4. Recognize good work

For 37 percent of employees, recognition for good work is the most important aspect of the work environment. Unfortunately, 65 percent of employees report receiving no recognition for good work in the last year. 

If your leadership team doesn’t recognize good work on a regular basis, you can expect your employees to be disengaged. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve—a simple, “Great job,” or another form of public or private recognition can go a long way. 

Make sure you’re aware of what each team member prefers. Some enjoy public recognition in meetings or events, while others want to stay out of the spotlight but would love a Thank You card or another token of appreciation. 

At WorkRamp we have a #props Slack channel for team member praise and shoutouts. The #props channel is one of the most active channels we have. The leadership team, managers, and colleagues regularly take the time to recognize team members’ accomplishments and wins. This could include anything from a customer shoutout to a colleague’s help on a project. 

By recognizing and encouraging excellent performance, you’ll energize your best performers and avoid disengagement.

5. Take steps to prevent burnout

Sometimes an employee isn’t disengaged, they’re simply burnt out. This could be due to work conditions or a personal situation at home. Seventy-seven percent of workers surveyed say they have experienced burnout at their current job, and 51 percent have gone through it more than once.

The first step to preventing burnout is having your leadership set the tone. Make sure managers take their vacation days, don’t work excessive hours, and advocate for work-life balance. 

From there, your leadership can:

  • Encourage real weekends and holidays off
  • Offer flexible work arrangements whenever possible
  • Provide wellness programs and incentives
  • Be available to listen and support employees with challenges
  • Monitor workloads and hire additional people as needed
  • Lead by example by using vacation time, wellness programs, and more

Preventing burnout is an important way to protect your engaged top performers.

6. Find ways for team members to connect

Remote and hybrid work options have enabled employees to have more flexibility and work-life balance. But the downside to remote work is that employees don’t have the same in-person interaction as in-office workers, which can lead to loneliness and isolation. A recent study found that 21 percent of participants named loneliness as the biggest struggle of working remotely. 

When your employees aren’t in a physical office space, it’s even more important to find ways to promote a sense of belonging and connection. There are a number of ways to promote connectivity in a remote environment, including:

  • Encouraging open and ongoing communication between teams
  • Using Slack channels or other messaging tools
  • Scheduling video meetings and team events
  • Creating Employee Resource Groups for like-minded individuals or employees with something in common (interests, ethnicity, etc.)
  • Planning periodic in-person events

“We take time out of our day to do to celebrate joy and make time for human interaction,” says Hanah Chang, Senior Manager, People and Culture at WorkRamp. “We have weekly Wednesday Socials where employees from different teams are encouraged to connect and chat about topics not related to work. We also have quarterly and monthly team events where each team gets the opportunity to bond and celebrate each other’s wins. We’ve done remote trivia, remote magic shows, remote cooking classes, etc. so that we can all participate regardless of where we are working from.”

It may take some effort, but when you promote connectivity, you can reap the benefits of remote work and offset the loneliness that can often come with it. 

Engagement drives revenue

Employee engagement isn’t just about retaining your best talent, although that’s certainly one of the benefits. Engaged teams result in 17 percent higher productivity, a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism, and 21 percent greater profitability.

Managing disengaged employees and turning them into top performers isn’t just something you do to please your staff, it’s something that benefits everyone in the organization. The truth is, it’s easier than it seems—and these tips are a great place to start.

Helping your managers develop better leadership skills and giving your employees opportunities to learn and grow are key strategies for employee engagement. WorkRamp can help you leverage learning as a growth engine to keep your team members engaged. Contact us to schedule a free demo.

 

Anna Spooner

Freelance Writer

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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