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5 min read

Just last week, I was having a chat with the HR Director of a financial consultancy organisation – let’s call her Julie– and Julie was telling me that her business had set out an ambitious mission in turning its traditional culture on its head to start appealing to the millennial generation, which was a new category for the business. The organisation needed to bridge the gap between millennials entering the workforce and their traditional placement of well-established employees that came to its organisation from long careers at larger businesses. 

Alongside this goal, Julie's organisation had aggressive targets for the next financial year, which, whilst exciting, seemed impossible given that this new venture into appealing to a younger generation seemed to be falling short on acceptance, candidate after candidate.

While some applicants had naturally chosen other organisations to build their career within, the business was finding that disengagement within current employees was actually filtering down to new applicants and people hoping to join the team.

The high turnover of current staff and bad reviews was really impacting the reputation of the business from an external view point, even leading to other employees leaving without having a new job lined up.

You can imagine that this was a massive red flag for Julie. It meant people were willing to take the risk and spend time actively searching for different job rather than spend any more time under her employment.

What was going on in her company to drive reputation down? And without this, how was her business supposed to appeal to a new generation at the rate its investors wanted?

How can business grow if discretionary effort and intent to stay is at an all time low?

If you recognise Julie’s predicament, you aren’t alone. The 2018 results from Gartner’s Future of HR survey show that while growing business is a top objective for business leaders, there’s a lot of work to do to retain the people who are going to achieve that growth.

The best employees (the ones we want to keep!) are at risk of being lured into a very attractive job market, and those that are actually staying are likely to be disengaged and provide very little of the discretionary effort, innovation and critical thinking required to achieve your business’ growth goals.

financial impact of employee disengagement

Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workforce found 71% of Western European employees are disengaged at work, which means nearly 3 out of every 5 of your people do only what is absolutely necessary to get through the day, and no more. As many as 19% or nearly 1 in 5 employees are actively disengaged, which means not only are they doing the bare minimum, they’re also actively trying to undermine any effort you’re making to improve their experience at work.

This slump in productivity and engagement is not just bad news for your managers and employees – it’s slowing economic growth.

Employee disengagement costs UK businesses millions every year

Calculating the direct costs of employee turnover can be relatively straightforward – most HR agencies will say that depending on the size of the business and the role it’s 30-150% of the individual’s salary, and the indirect costs impact your bottom line too.

On top of the people who leave and are replaced, there are the employees who stay who are disengaged and disenchanted. Let’s look at the types of ways employee disengagement can impact your financials:

Cost of involuntary turnover Cost of disengaged employees
Loss of productivity from employees who are filling in for people who left Opportunities lost when people don’t go above and beyond
Cost of training and induction Lack of innovation and time lost on inefficient processes
In-house hiring and admin costs during the recruitment process Poor decision-making and collaboration when respect for business goals and workmates is low
Loss of productivity as new hires become familiar with new systems and people  Brand damage when people speak badly about their employee experience

Even if your people aren’t leaving at the same alarming rate that Julie is witnessing in her company, increasing retention and preventing top talent from leaving will impact productivity, motivation and overall business results. It’s worth looking at whether the culture and experience in your own company is creating an engaging environment that supports the growth and innovation your business needs in the near future.

Discover how to measure the employee engagement cost vs return on investment  to find long-lasting engagement success »

The reality is, your competitors have set aggressive growth targets too. And the businesses who succeed in attracting that elusive 10% of the Western European population who are engaged and achieve phenomenal business results, are investing in improving employee engagement.

These business leaders know that improving things like leadership, management and communication, or providing continuous employee recognition and support for employees’ mental, physical and financial wellbeing all set their people up for success.

financial impact of employee disengagement

Culture is more than a coffee machine and a Christmas party

The tempting thing for many leaders – especially those who don’t have an HR team or operate on very restricted budgets – is to put a bandaid solution on a bigger problem. But further research from Gartner has found that “supporting what employees value, not just what they need, increases employee performance by 20%.

The solution is to ask your people how you as an employer can provide them an employee experience that enables and supports them in their day-to-day work.

Instead of throwing a few thousand pounds at big events that are only improve the mood briefly, or big rewards that only reach a small percentage of your employees, consider how you can assign that budget into a relevant, impactful employee engagement programme that improves the lives of all your people everyday.

financial impact of employee disengagement You could generate more open and honest communication by creating an employee communications hub where any employee can post questions and comments on company-wide announcements. You could reinforce your purpose, mission or values by providing daily opportunities for leaders to recognise their people instead of just once a year. Or you could look at ways to help employees pursue professional development or ease financial stress by helping them save on everyday expenses.

All these things bring your Employee Value Proposition to life in tangible ways – and this is the key to creating a sense of connection to your business.

The business case for investing in employee engagement is a no-brainer for leaders like Julie because they know it will have a tangible, ongoing impact on her people’s and business’ success. All we need is more leaders like her to have the conversation about what needs to change, and take a first step.

It may seem challenging at first, but doing nothing will come at a greater cost.

Emily Alecock

Emily Alecock is an Employee Engagement Consultant at Reward Gateway. She enjoys hiking and is doing the UK Three Peaks Challenge next year. She also loves yoga and growing her own fruits and vegetables.

Employee Engagement Consultant

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