South African Reward Association
5 December 2018

85% of your workforce isn’t engaged at work. What now?

By Deon Smit & Muhammed Goolab, South African Reward Association

Your employees are your company’s most important asset. They are the ones tasked with serving your customers, implementing strategies and driving your teams forward to achieve their goals. According to 2018 Gallup research, however, 85% of the workforce is disengaged.

What is a ‘disengaged employee’?

They are mentally ‘checked out’ and sleepwalking through their workday without passion and energy. These workers withdraw themselves mentally and emotionally from their jobs.

The economic consequences of lost productivity due to disengaged workers is estimated to be around $7-trillion per year, but many of the costs are difficult to quantify because these costs are often intangible and untracked. Disengaged employees often have higher rates of absenteeism, resulting in more sick days taken, and they are more likely to be actively seeking other employment.

This increases the associated costs of recruitments because these employees often need to be replaced at higher rates.

Employee engagement is generally measured or defined by a number of factors, including the extent to which an employee feels that his or her contribution is important and is recognized and how inspired the employee feels about the organization and the extent to which the organization can cultivate this inspiration. Whether the employee perceives a workforce within the organization, and the extent to which an employee believes that he or she is paid fairly and equitably for the jobs they do, are also things that can be tracked to measure how engaged an employee is.

Turning disengaged employees into engaged employees in 3 steps

Engaged employees are natural brand ambassadors and companies who want to turn their disengaged staff into engaged workers need to focus on three things: the organization’s culture, communication and rewards.

Employee engagement starts at the top and leaders need to invest in a culture of engagement and growth. Employees will be looking to their line managers for leadership, so these executives need to have the right leadership skills to actively engage the people that report to them and focus on reinforcing a positive work environment.

Secondly, companies also need to effectively communicate their objectives while at the same time taking employees along on the journey with them. Employees need to know and understand how their contributions make a difference in achieving the company’s greater vision, so their role and importance in the business needs to be clearly communicated to them. Communication allows the organization to be held accountable in driving engagement and deliver against what they have committed to.

Thirdly, the success and contribution of employees must be celebrated and recognized. This recognition must be done in a meaningful and consistent manner.

Organizations should focus on the individual by creating clear career paths, growth, and development programs, as well as career advancement planning. Although monetary rewards are not seen as a driver of engagement, employees will become disengaged as soon as payment is perceived to be unfair. Money is a reinforcement for achievements, so use this reward wisely.

The importance of an engaged workforce can’t be overstated. Reduce staff turnover, improve productivity, retain more customers and increase your bottom line by connecting with your employees in ways that count.



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