Using Technology to Fight Workplace Apathy

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It’s hard to stay focused on your job when your peers barely do enough work to earn their paychecks. People who openly flaunt their apathy in the workplace tend to infect everyone around them.

According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of employees are not actively engaged in their jobs. Such widespread disengagement has a direct negative effect on the bottom line. Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost $500 billion annually in reduced productivity and lost sales.

Disengaged employees experience higher rates of absenteeism and more workplace accidents. They also leave their jobs more frequently than engaged people, putting a greater strain on management to train new staff.

Disengagement can spread like a virus to infect co-workers and scare off customers, but the problem isn’t confined to large enterprises. Small businesses and midsize companies often become breeding grounds for apathy too, due to weaker HR policies and structures.

Some 20 million employees, or 18 percent of the U.S. workforce, are actively disengaged, according to a data from payroll provider ADP. Not only are these people unhappy at work, but they openly display their unhappiness, which in turn undermines the productivity of engaged employees. These workers also drain more time and energy from their managers, who must take steps to control the workplace negativity.

Firing disengaged employees can reduce the problem in the short term, but it won’t address the root causes for disengagement. Employees tend to disengage for valid reasons, according to the Gallup study. Those reasons include dissatisfaction due to a lack of skills development, or limited opportunities for a promotion or a raise.

Other festering problems include employees who do not find their work personally meaningful, or those who feel they lack autonomy on the job. Some staff do not believe that workplace rules are applied equally and fairly, while others do not get feedback which they consider to be useful or constructive.

Deploying Software to Build Alignment and Engagement

Engaged workers are 18 percent more productive and 12 percent more profitable for their companies. Here are some other telling statistics from ADP that detail the scope of this problem:

· Companies lose $2,246 per disengaged employee annually.

· Engaged employees are 57 percent more effective and 87 percent less likely to leave a company than the disengaged.

· Organizations with high engagement levels post total shareholder returns that are 22 percent higher on average.

Employee performance has been shown to increase by 25 percent when managers help employees resolve their roadblocks and access the proper resources. Company leaders and managers should regularly take the pulse of disengaged employees to draw out their concerns and address them directly.

New crowdsourcing software can help managers expose nagging problems, and business collaboration tools can increase buy-in by aligning the team around shared solutions. Mobile crowdsourcing apps allow employees to vote on shared priorities and solve problems together. In this way, workers feel that they have a real say in decision-making, rather than just taking orders from the boss. This approach can make a big impact on improving employee morale and engagement.

Project collaboration software and file-sharing sites allow groups to collectively create content together as a team. Colleagues can edit documents or create slideshows in a shared online environment. Such software platforms provide a structured framework to increase communications that will align personal and organizational objectives to unleash the full power of your people.

Employee engagement is actually the key to achieving a competitive market advantage, according to a report from Development Dimensions International (DDI), a leadership development firm. People have become the primary source of competitive advantage in our information economy, making engagement the main enabler for a successful execution of any business strategy.

“Move the needle on engagement and you move the needle on business performance,” wrote the DDI authors, who added that this truth has been proven repeatedly by dozens of studies across hundreds of organizations, involving hundreds of thousands of employees.

Just as a lack of engagement destroys morale, active engagement can drive workplace productivity and organizational success. Highly engaged employees make an extra effort because they care, and they care because they believe management cares about them.

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About Author

Brian Anderson is chief marketing officer at POP. He has over 25 years of global marketing experience in technology, business to business, and business to consumer markets. He has a proven track record of success in branding, revenue growth, M&A, IPO, as well as multiple key marketing disciplines.