Lack of Engagement is Costly

It is difficult sometimes to understand why people are not fired up and excited about what your IStock_000015948669XSmallorganization or group is doing. You see the vision, you know the possibilities and even more likely, you see the dangers of doing nothing. Yet there they sit, no excitement, no engagement…nothing. You’ve cajoled them, you’ve poked them…maybe you even offered movie tickets or other special rewards for performance. Yet the best you can seem to get is periodic engagement (if that) and nothing that is sustainable.

Perhaps you’re starting to think that it’s time for them to go. If they have essentially checked out of the job but they keep checking in to their desk (or chair or station), then they are taking up space that could be used by otherwise engaged employees. Maybe you should put everybody out of their misery by just letting the person go and starting again.

Before you do that though, do a quick calculation suggested by the Society for Human Resource Management.  If they are an entry level person, you can estimate that the additional cost of replacing this person will be between 30 and 50% of their salary. But if they have been around for a while, or are mid-level employees, the cost is more consistently around 150% of annual pay.  If they have specialized skills, or a senior position, the common multiplier is 400%.

And that’s just the monetary cost. What will the cost be to the organization or to your team in terms of morale? Will productivity drop if you fire somebody on the team? It usually does. Will stress increase among team members? Almost always. And will you have to go through the mental frustration again of finding the right candidate? You bet.

It would seem, then, that the termination of an employee from the team should be the action taken when all others have been exhausted. While you might need to spend some focused attention on the issue of employee engagement today, it is highly likely that this attention will cost less—both financially and mentally—then the attention needed to bring on a new team member. In the next blog post we’ll talk about one of the ways you might approach the situation to get the most out of your team members and for them to get the most out of their experience following you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Lack of Engagement is Costly

  1. You make very good point Todd but I think the real question to ask is what is the cost of not replacing this employee? You state that morale may go down when a team member is let go but have you not noticed that morale also goes down when people feel that they are doing more than their team members. People often start to slack off, they figure if they can get away with not engaging why I am busting my butt ? You may be losing productivity from every employee because this person is bringing down the energy of the entire team. Lets say a team consists of 10 people. and because this person brings everyone down 10-20% on their productivity. You could be losing an entire years of productivity from the team members as well as the employee that is unengaged. Being unengaged can be contagious, then you have a real problem at hand.

  2. Scott, you bring up something pretty important. The cost of having an employee who has quit but stayed can be quite large due not only to their own productivity but the tendency for them to bring down the productivity of the rest of the team. And it is just as likely that a leader let’s the situation continue for too long at which point the inevitable finally happens, the employee is fired, but the damage is already done to the team and it takes a long time to recover.
    The problem I think is that often the leader doesn’t do anything, hoping that the issue will resolve itself. As I will write today, there are some steps a manager should consider in terms of turning that employee around because the worst choice is to do nothing. If you can’t get the person back into the game, then it’s best to let them go play somewhere else.