Checked Out Employee

We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on how to build your company’s culture. Today, we’re going to shine a spotlight on what could be a serious hinderance to the growth of your business.

In a TEDx Atlanta talk, Chris White, a leader in University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations, described the problem of employees “checking out” at their jobs. He compares this phenomenon to the Google employee walkout, suggesting that the two examples are different forms of protest.

While a “checked out” employee may be showing up to work and, at least on the surface, doing their job, they won’t be working to their full potential. They may take slightly longer breaks, keep ways to improve operations to themselves and even be actively looking for other opportunities during work hours. These are just a few examples of how this problem can manifest.

This employee disengagement is a pernicious hazard for small business in and around Brockville. While walkouts in high profile companies like Google may draw eyeballs, the problem of silent festering disillusionment in the workplace is a more common danger to the many businesses that aren’t always in the public eye.

Employees who are not feeling heard by management will often take their frustrations to co-workers, breeding a toxic atmosphere throughout the workplace. Soon after, instead of having a relatively small issue needing to be resolved, you may find yourself trying to bridge large divides between employees and departments.

So, how can you confront this issue?

Start Early

As soon as a new hire walks through the door on their first day, a window of opportunity opens. Like with first impressions, this is a brief and formative time in their workplace experience. Make sure you are providing new hires with as many learning opportunities as possible and communicate to them that it is OK to ask questions.

Too often, employees are thrown into the deep end of a new role because nobody seems to have the time to train them. This sink or swim mentality ends up costing businesses in the long run with both employee disillusionment and turnover. Taking the time to properly inform your employees not only makes it more likely that they will stay on with your organization, but it will make them valuable sources of insight for future hires.

Use Your Metrics

You don’t have all day to monitor the progress of your employees, nor would you want to if you did. An effective workplace is one where employees can carry out their tasks without constant prodding from management. Workplace metrics are a fantastic way to determine the progress of any of your workers.

Luckily, every workplace has their own metrics by which performance can be judged. Customer satisfaction, inventory moved, sales numbers and response time are all data points you can use to determine how your employees are doing. No matter the size of your business, make sure you are keeping track of your performance metrics.

Establish Responsive Communications

We’ve mentioned feedback systems like suggestion boxes before, but it’s worth mentioning that the availability of a feedback channel is not the end if your improvement process. When you receive helpful feedback, be sure to highlight the suggestion and its positive effect of the company after implementation. This can typically be done at company meetings or through regular communications.

By clearly showing your appreciation, you will send the message that their insights are valued and that their concerns are truly heard.

There’s a balancing act you must achieve when opening feedback channels. On the one hand, you do not want to make your feedback channels so restrictive that your workers can’t articulate themselves (whenever practical, make sure you let the workers put their suggestions in their own words; multiple choice surveys can be useful tools, but they should not be the only ones at your disposal). On the other hand, you don’t want a suggestion box to be an outlet for workplace bickering.

When you create a channel of communication, make sure you clarify its purpose. Clearly state what feedback will be seen by whom and in what way it may be acted upon. To help guide you along, consider what existing/upcoming channels your business has for the following issues:

  • HR concerns
  • Health and safety recommendations and issues
  • Accessibility improvements
  • Process improvements
  • General feedback

For each of these channels, ask yourself the following:

  • Who oversees this feedback channel?
  • Are employees aware of this channel?
  • Do we respond appropriately to input?
  • Where needed, are we respecting employee’s privacy?
  • Do we need to make improvements to this channel?

Make sure you aren’t tinkering with a feedback method all the time. While overhauls to your processes may be necessary from time to time, remember that each significant change must be communicated throughout your company, and that major and frequent changes can become overwhelming.

Seek out Help

HR consultants can come in handy if you are feeling daunted by this objective. An experienced consultant will have years of practical knowledge for you to lean on, and they can help you create communication channels that last.

Whichever way you choose to approach this, just remember that employee enthusiasm and dedication are among your most valuable assets. Use this opportunity to show your employees how they can thrive in the workplace.

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