The Cost of a Disengaged Employee

Jacob Morgan By Jacob Morgan
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I’ve had a lot of interesting discussions lately around employee collaboration and one of the topics I’ve been having conversations around is employee engagement. Now before I go into more detail I want to stress that engagement in this case doesn’t refer to activity on a platform such as submitting ideas, commenting, sharing status updates or anything else of that nature. That’s typically something that some vendors in the industry like to focus on but in my opinion it’s wrong. Activity is not the same thing as engagement. In this case engagement refers to employees being passionate about the work they do and the feeling of being connected to the company. So the question becomes, is engagement a fundable business case for employee collaboration? (even though the benefits of employee collaboration extend far beyond just engagement).

It’s a similar discussion we had in the social media space a while ago, why do we want engaged customers?  Well because they stay loyal, refer their friends, can help shape future products, and keep spending.  But what about employees?

Those of you familiar with what is happening with Goldman Sachs these days will recall the recent article published by a former Goldman Sachs employee who resigned from the company in a very public way while detailing some of the poor practices and culture of the firm.  It’s now being estimated that this disengaged employee cost Goldman Sachs over $2 billion.

As I’ve said many times, we have spent so much time talking about the voice of the customer that we forgot about the voice of the employee.  Of course what happened to Goldman is perhaps on the extreme end of the spectrum but it certainly proves to be a valuable example of why engaged employees are so important and what can happen with disengaged employees.  Consider some of the following statistics:

  • The lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the US economy $370 BILLION annually. (Gallup)
  • 70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same. (Wright Management)
  • 78% would recommend their company’s products of services, against 13% of the disengaged. (Gallup)
  • Engaged employees advocate their company or organization – 67% against only 3% of the disengaged. (Gallup)
  • 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work, as against 11% of the disengaged. 45% of the engaged say they get a great deal of their life happiness from work, against 8% of the disengaged. (Gallup)
  • Higher levels of engagement are strongly related to higher levels of innovation. 59% of engaged employees say that their job brings out their most creative ideas against only 3% of disengaged employees. (Gallup)
  • 18% of dis-engaged employees actually undermine their co-workers’ success. (Gallup)
  • 72% of US workers are not engaged in their work. Defined as essentially sleep walking throughout their day. (Gallup)
  • This is just a small sample of figures, more stats compiled at “The Social Workplace

The same customer revolution that many have touted for the past few years in the social media space is quite applicable to the enterprise as well.  Employees also have a voice and you can be that they are going to use it

So getting back to the question, is engagement a fundable business case for employee collaboration?  I certainly think so.


About Jacob Morgan
Jacob is the principal of Chess Media Group, a social business consultancy focused on developing Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0, and Social Media strategies for mid and enterprise size organizations. Jacob is also the author of Twittfaced, a social media 101 book for business. Jacob authors a top ranked blog on Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 and can be found on Twitter @JacobM.

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