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Ken Keller: Weeding out the disengaged

Posted: January 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

These individuals show up every day, are present physically but not always mentally for the required period of time, and leave at the end of the day, not having accomplished much at all.

This is the disengaged employee. What makes up the critical difference between engaged employees and those that are disengaged? Research suggests that it comes down to several factors.

The primary difference is initiative. People engaged in what they are doing are proactive; they are not sitting and waiting to be told what to do. They see a problem, an opportunity or a challenge, and they tackle it.

Individuals with initiative go the extra mile. They are not afraid of hard work; they don’t mind tackling difficult tasks that others don’t want to do.

This type of person is ready, willing and able to apply what they know to get the job done. If they lack a specific skill, they are not afraid to learn what they don’t know so they will be able to do more.

A secondary difference is demonstrated leadership. Leadership is not earned through a title, but comes from earning the respect and confidence of others.

Those with leadership skills don’t just issue orders and walk away without following up.

Effective leaders know the capabilities of those they lead and monitor the progress and results accordingly. When assigning a task, the leader is fully capable of explaining why something needs to be done and when it should be accomplished.

Being able to handle change is the third difference between the engaged and disengaged employee. Disengaged employees almost always fight for the status quo or the past because that is where they are comfortable.

The disengaged see change as a negative because they believe there is something to lose by changing.

The engaged employee may be concerned about change but generally sees it as an opportunity.

The fourth point of difference is that the engaged employee has a track record of success.

During a job interview or a performance evaluation, an engaged employee won’t hesitate to speak about the assignments they are working on, what the results are and when they expect to finish, ready for the next challenging project.

Contrast that with a disengaged employee. When asked about recent results, this individual is hard pressed to speak of anything they can take credit for.

January is a month when many organizations conduct annual performance evaluations.

Here are just a few questions to ask your employees that will shed light on their level of engagement:

“Can you give me some examples of how you have demonstrated initiative in your job this past year?”

“Can you give me some examples of some problems you have faced this past year and what plans you took to address them?”

“Can you give me some examples of the results you have achieved this past year through the efforts of others in the company?”

A business owner or leader who wonders if how an employee will answer the question “What have you done for me lately?” is creating an uncomfortable moment of truth.

Many leaders prefer not to think about this kind of thing. But if you want an organization that performs at a higher level, the more engaged employees you have on the payroll, the fewer disengaged employees you will want to provide a paycheck to.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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