Disengaged employees can cost firms much more than bad economy

When an organisation demands more from employees than it is giving, employees feel exploited. [iStockphoto]

If you are employed, chances are that you are a quiet quitter. According to a recent Gallup survey, 83 per cent of Kenyan workers are "quiet quitting" meaning they only do the bare minimum at work and are only with the current employer because they haven’t found a job opening elsewhere.

The survey showed that Kenya trailed her East African neighbours in employee engagement. Only 17 per cent of employees in Kenya are engaged, Uganda (18 per cent), while Tanzania stood at 24 per cent.

In a country grappling with high levels of unemployment, such a high level of quiet quitting is sobering. When most of an organisation’s employees are psychologically disengaged, it means little work is going on. That leads to low productivity, which ends up being very expensive for the organisation.

Employee disengagement costs the global economy about $ 8.8 trillion, according to Gallup. There are still no figures for Kenya. Whereas this may not be obvious to many organisations, disengaged employees are likely to cost firms much more than a bad economic environment and competition combined. Organisations ought to examine this sad state of affairs and arrest the situation before it gets out of hand.

First, the top leadership in the organisation ought to examine the way they relate with the employees. In a situation where employees feel ignored by the top leadership, they are likely to feel disgruntled hence disengage themselves from the activities of the organisation. They will be available physically but psychologically they are absent. They will just hang around to receive a pay cheque and more so when job opportunities are scarce.

Second, it calls for an organisation to examine its culture. An organisation’s culture plays a key role in the way employees behave. In an organisation where employees are given an equal opportunity for promotion or otherwise, almost everyone feels valued. When people feel valued, they are likely to “reciprocate” by giving their best to the organisation. When employees become disengaged, it would be wise for the top leadership to re-examine the organisation’s culture.

When employees don’t see a better future for themselves in an organisation, they are likely to feel discouraged. In such a situation, they get pre-occupied with looking for other opportunities outside the organisation and when this is not forthcoming, they just lie about waiting for the time to clock out having done very little.

If the top leadership does not deliberately develop employees in their different areas, they are likely to lag behind in their skills. Falling below their peers in terms of skills would introduce a sense of inferiority and low self-esteem. To counter that, they are likely to get disengaged from the organisation’s work as they seek to develop themselves.

Also, when an organisation demands more from employees than it is giving, employees feel exploited and unappreciated. Employees want to know that there is fair compensation for work done and that there is also fairness in the way positions are filled. If they sense a disparity in any of these areas, it will just be a matter of time before they sign out.

Your employees are your first customers and you should treat them the same way you treat your customers. After all, they will be the ones serving your customers. A good question to always ask is: If this employee was my most valued customer, how would I treat him or her? This will help you change your perspective when it comes to how you treat your employees. 

Rarely will employees become disengaged when they are treated well and when they feel valued. They will continue giving their best even if they are looking for new and better opportunities.