From 2008 to 2010, employee engagement dropped to 56%. This was the largest rate of decline in 15 years, according to Aon Consulting. So how can you measure employee engagement within your organization?  Generally companies will deploy an employee engagement survey using an external company to administer it, ensuring anonymity for employees. Others will develop their own internal surveys that  lack question validity and robust reporting features, which can be drawbacks when developing an improvement plan.

So what if you don’t have the time or money to hire outside expertise, but want to get a broad sense of overall engagement? What are your options?  My suggestion is to look for these top 10 clues that employees may be disengaging from their work:

1. The quality of service and products is dropping. Employees are not showing a genuine level of concern for customer needs and the quality of their workmanship.

2. Absenteeism is increasing. The amount of time employees are missing from work is affecting overall department or company performance and may be affecting the morale of those having to pick up a greater workload.

3. Employee complaints are on the rise. Negative comments about management and the company from employees to other employees can be like a cancer and impact the performance of others. An analysis of where the complaints are coming from and the type of complaints may uncover some employment issues that should be addressed.

4. Employees don’t work as a team. There may be some great individual contributors, but the environment doesn’t encourage cooperation and teamwork, which can lead to missed opportunities. Make sure that teams have the right members to be successful, that each member understands their role and how it fits into the team, and that the team understands what success looks like for them.

5. Shrinkage and theft rates are increasing. These issues can start small and then rise to levels of significance impacting profitability. Identify potential problem areas and address the issue as soon as you see an uptick — before it becomes a bigger problem.

6. Lack of accountability. As the frequency of employees blaming others for problems increases, others will take the same attitude of avoiding personal responsibility for failures at work.

7.  Fewer employees are coming to you with concerns. Don’t assume that this is good news and bury your head in the sand.  It often means employees don’t have a high level of trust and confidence in management. You may be missing the opportunity to hear about some good ideas and suggestions that can improve results for the company.

8. There are fewer opportunities taken to recognize success. Your organization may be struggling, but there still might be a team or an  individual who has been successful. Don’t just get caught up in the big goals — remember to recognize and celebrate achieving the smaller ones.

9. Turnover rates are too high. Replacing good performers is expensive. Is it an isolated department or an overall company problem? Review exit interview results to determine any trends that should be addressed, and then put a plan together.

10.  Key positions remain open longer. This may be a sign that your brand is suffering. You may not have a good reputation as an employer in the market, which impedes you from attracting top talent. With the Internet and social media, employers’ bad practices and culture don’t remain a secret for very long.

So which of these clues do you see in your organization? Ask some of your key managers for their input and sit down to determine what areas you want to address first. And remember, this technique is not a replacement for a professional engagement survey.  Make sure that this becomes a key initiative in the next 12 months!

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