Last year, a Gallup survey entitled “State of the American Workplace” came to the alarming conclusion that seven of ten workers in the United States either are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work.  The annual cost of this widespread discontent to American businesses is estimated to be a staggering $450 to $550 billion. 

Such findings should be a cause for concern among business owners.

While opinions vary on the precise definition of employee engagement, the term is generally accepted to represent a sense of commitment to a worker’s job and employer. Poorly engaged or totally disengaged employees can weaken a business in many ways, affecting such key areas as quality control, absenteeism, customer relations, innovation and teamwork, not to mention overall morale. Employees who do not care about their jobs or do not see the success of their employers as relevant to them put their companies at a competitive disadvantage.     

Why do such workers stay at their jobs? One reason, of course, may be the state of the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. A need for benefits, especially health insurance, also is often a major factor. And sometimes inaction on the employee’s part is the overriding factor. Whatever the reason, the impact on employers was succinctly summarized in a report last year by consulting firm BlessingWhite: Disengaged employees “stay for what they can get” as opposed to “what they can give.”    

Clearly, the lack of employee engagement is a problem that businesses need to address with a sense of urgency. They can begin by evaluating their company culture.  Does it create an environment in which all employees, regardless of their experience level, tenure or position, feel that they are truly an integral part of the company’s success?  Do ownership and/or management effectively communicate on an ongoing basis in a way that makes employees feel connected and gives them the opportunity to be heard? Are the goals of individuals, managers and executives aligned? Do these groups have the tools to work successfully together? 

These are crucial questions because employees who are disengaged may feel like outsiders in their own company. It is significant that the Gallup report cited above reported that only 41 percent of workers surveyed “felt they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.” This finding suggests that many employees may not understand the business’s direction or culture or how they fit into the company and its success.  Disengaged employees may also feel disconnected from their team and believe that they are not making any progress. 

Determining and elevating the level of employee engagement should become an essential part of every company’s operations. Managers at all levels should be made aware of their responsibilities in this regard, and given the tools to help employees become more engaged. Furthermore, disengaged workers who do not respond positively to coaching and intervention should be considered as candidates for possible dismissal.    

Employee engagement must be recognized as a significant factor that affects profitability and growth. Business owners who take the necessary steps to properly engage their workforce will benefit from higher productivity and an enriched level of employee commitment to their company’s reputation and success.

Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 28 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees.  With 2013 revenues of $2.3 billion, Insperity operates in 57 offices throughout the United States. For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit http://www.insperity.com.