3 ways to motivate disengaged employees

A rising number of employees are staying put in their jobs worldwide, raising concerns that more employees are showing up physically without being engaged mentally, according to CEB, a best practice insight and technology company.

If left unchecked, this lack of employee engagement, also known as “quitting in seat,” risks a decline in corporate productivity, CEB suggested.

Data drawn from a global CEB survey in the third quarter of 2015 that involved more than 18,000 employees in 20 countries showed that 35.1% of survey participants displayed a high intent to stay with their organisations, up from 32.4% in the third quarter of 2014.

The data also suggested that year-over-year activities employees undertook worldwide to seek jobs declined the most in the US (17.5 percentage points), New Zealand (11.5 percentage points), and the UK (10.6 percentage points). Other countries that saw year-over-year declines in job-seeking activities included France (8.7 percentage points), Germany (8.1 percentage points), Australia (6.9 percentage points), and Brazil (6 percentage points).

Indonesia bucked the trend with a rise of 6 percentage points in job-seeking activity in the past year. Job-seeking activities in Canada were down 5.1 percentage points from a year earlier but were up 6 percentage points from the previous quarter.

The main reasons for employees to look for new jobs are future career opportunities (40.7%), compensation (37.6%), people management (35.1%), development opportunities (30.1%), manager quality (28.8%), recognition (27.2%), and respect (26.5%).

“Employee dissatisfaction is always a concern since it can have a notable impact on overall workforce performance,” Brian Kropp, CEB HR practice leader, said in a statement. “However, the lack of future career opportunities available to employees must be addressed if employers want to see higher productivity growth rates.”

Employees know that traditional career paths are largely a thing of the past, Kropp said. “Companies need to create new ways to advance and develop their people if they want to stay competitive and reverse the ‘quitting in seat’ trend.”

To prevent employee disengagement and improve productivity, CEB suggests companies focus on three areas:

  • Improving access to career opportunities. Today’s flatter organisational structures leave employees dissatisfied with their future career opportunities. Companies should work to provide new experiences and enable other types of employee movement across the organisation.
  • Communicating about development. Managers should regularly talk with employees about how their current role is making them more marketable as they build skills and capabilities they need to advance in their careers.
  • Setting clear expectations. Managers should set clear expectations with employees and let them decide whether they want to commit to the organisation. Employees who decide to leave create opportunities for others to move across the organisation.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

12 Keys to Employee Engagement”: Researchers interviewed 2,006 UK professionals to find out how motivated they were in their current role and to identify the main differentiators of companies with a highly engaged workforce.

4 Ways to Unlock Employee Performance”: Companies that encourage collaboration boost employee productivity, but corporate culture frequently works against employees helping each other make company-wide accomplishments, research suggests. Find out four ways to overcome these hurdles and unlock employee performance.

‘Softer’ Issues of Culture, Engagement Becoming Harder for Companies to Master”: A global survey by Deloitte shows that employee engagement is a rising concern and that organisations seem to be falling behind as they try to re-imagine ways to manage and develop their workforce.

Sabine Vollmer ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.