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How Can Managers Identify the Triggers of Disengagement?

Model Release: A, Property Release: 1 | date created: 1970:01:01

By Jayson Saba, VP of Market Research & Industry Relations, Ceridian

Earlier this year, our CEO David Ossip wrote an article for CEO Magazine about how Ceridian was able to improve engagement during a transformation that required a careful and tremendous focus on change management. 

David wrote, “Just as triggers of disengagement can damage culture, it’s possible to cultivate triggers of engagement. Take action to instill a sense of purpose; provide meaningful rewards and recognition; align management actions with company values. By building triggers of engagement into the fabric of your company, you can create a virtuous cycle that constantly reinforces the best in your culture. Being open and honest in communication with your employees will give you all the information you need to identify these opportunities.”

As a manager of people here at Ceridian, the last part of this statement stood out for me:

Being open and honest in communication with your employees will give you all the information you need to identify these opportunities.

Open and honest communication is critical when dealing with people.  At the people strategy level, there are a few avenues that companies can use to understand employees and determine how the organization can improve their experience and engage them in their careers. At Ceridian, we rely on our own HCM products, regular engagement surveys, pulse surveys/daily check-ins, online presence – social media and sites like Glassdoor – and employee town hall meetings.  More importantly, we communicate findings and actions to the employees and show them how we track against them.  From instituting new policies to enhancing the work-life balance and ensuring that employees are recognized, we strive to be transparent and open.

While a lot can be driven at the highest levels of HR, in this case our Chief People Officer and her team, an important piece to remember is that people managers play an integral role in understanding where their team members stand.  A company can have the best engagement strategy and the most progressive programs in place – from career development opportunities and recognition to an awesome mission and great community contributions – as a vehicle to drive engagement and improve the employee experience, but the people managers are the tires, the rubber that meets the road.

I am sure some of you reading this have worked for a ‘great’ employer as evidenced by awards and other recognition by third party entities, but have worked in challenging teams or had a difficult time with a manager, and vice-versa. Some of us have worked and stayed a long while for less-than-ideal companies because we love our boss and we really enjoy working with our colleagues.

Plenty of research has been done and many findings published about employee engagement, but when we try to boil it down, much of employee engagement is driven by bosses, people we work with, the work we do, and whether we are recognized.  The sooner we, as people managers, recognize this, the easier it becomes to have open and honest conversations with our team members.  I challenge my teammates when they wake up every morning to ask themselves these four questions:

  • Am I happy with my manager and being on this team?
  • Am I happy with the work I am doing?
  • Am I proud of our company?
  • Am I rewarded for my output and do I see a career path?

Control knob on a machine

If the answer to ALL FOUR of these questions is not a YES, then we need to have a longer conversation.  A NO to any of the above is a trigger of disengagement. The conversation that ensues from asking these questions help us understand if we as managers are providing our colleagues the best experience we can.  As managers, there will be things we can work on with our team members right away, but sometimes, we will need to ask our HR partners for help.  And again, that conversation with HR not only helps our own teams, but could also add insight to the greater people strategy.

When we have one-on-one meetings with our reports or during development conversations, which should be frequent, we should be asking these questions. And even as managers, we need to be honest and ask ourselves these questions.

We need to constantly work to ensure we identify the triggers of disengagement early before they become a problem.  As a colleague used to say ‘an engagement problem can quickly turn into a performance and a retention problem.’  Let’s have honest, open and meaningful conversations before it’s too late.

Jayson SabaJayson Saba is VP of Market Research and Industry Relations at Ceridian. Prior to Ceridian, Jayson was an analyst at Aberdeen Group’s Human Capital Management practice.  As the lead analyst for Core HR, Workforce Management, and Outsourcing, Jayson published over 100 research papers and reports about technology and best practices.  Jayson is a frequent contributor to industry and trade magazines including HR Executive, PayTech, HROToday, Workforce Management, Talent Management, CIO and The Economist. He regularly presents at HR conferences and trade shows.  Follow him on Twitter @JaysonSaba. 

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