Over a fifth of all Australian employees are actively disengaged in their workplace, the 2008 Gallup Biannual Australian Engagement Study has found.

Actively disengaged employees are not only unsatisfied with their jobs but they also end up undermining the work of their colleagues. This phenomenon costs Australian businesses around $33 billion annually.

In what is likely to be negative news for managers, the survey also revealed that 30 per cent of actively disengaged employees wanted to leave their organisation within the next 12 months.

With this in mind, what can management and human resources staff do to reverse the trend?


Actively engaged employees

Derek Stockley, a training and performance consultant from Melbourne, describes actively engaged employees as those who, “[believe] in the mission, purpose and values of an organisation and demonstrate that commitment through their actions…and their attitude towards the employer and customers“.

Certainty about what their employers expect of them can also assist staff in feeling more engaged with their work. Steve Ewin, vice president and partner at The Gallup Organisation says, “This requires clarification about why their role is important, and the outcomes for which they are accountable. A job description is not enough.”

“Many managers only focus on the negative aspects of an employee’s performance and forget the positive aspects,” he added. “This can also be tied into a lack of encouragement about an employee’s development.”

In addition, one in five Australian employees are extremely satisfied with the frequency of performance reviews they receive from their supervisor or manager and only 19 per cent say their performance reviews help them do their job better.

Managers who focus on their employees’ strengths or positive characteristics have the most engaged staff, with 43 per cent being engaged and only 4 per cent actively disengaged.


Creating a Great Place to Work

The Great Places to Work Institute of Australia and BRW magazine conduct an annual survey of 15,000 employees to determine Australia’s most employee-friendly organisations.

At the top of this year’s list was Google Australia, who have become well-known for their laid-back company culture and employee rewards.

The facilities in their head office include beanbag-filled meeting rooms, ping pong tables and a free cafeteria for staff.

Other organisations that made the list offer perks as varied as free iPods to Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the opportunity for international travel.

The popular firms also provided education subsidies, on-site fitness centres or subsidised gym memberships, flexible work arrangements including telecommuting, health insurance plans, senior management opportunities for women and child care.

These undoubtedly go a long way in maintaining a more engaged workforce.


The importance of non-financial rewards

Financial rewards are important and they should provide staff with performance-based incentives. However, non-financial rewards such as the examples above, are just as vital and are often overlooked.

Non-financial rewards give staff the benefits of effort recognition, status and an increased feeling of being valued by the organisation. These often “rub off” on other employees and help create a more results-oriented corporate culture.

Motivated employees are more productive and will often strive to achieve more for the organisation.


What can your organisation do?

iHR Australia can help your organisation achieve a more engaged and productive workforce through measures such as staff engagement surveys, policy development and the development of clear job descriptions and role accountabilities.

Staff engagement surveys can be customized to suit your organisation and its requirements. iHR’s multi-skilled staff can take care of the entire process and provide you with results directly linked to your firm’s strategic goals. These can also be backed up with our full implementation support.

iHR Australia’s performance management tools further support the professional development of your organisation’s employees. Some of the tools we offer include performance management training, performance appraisal systems, performance management coaching and management development.

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