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Guide to “disengaged” staff


Guide to “disengaged” staff

Over the past few weeks, we have shared a number of posts which relate to empowering staff and utilising their skillsets for the benefit of the organisation. But how do you deal with those who don’t engage?

Our inspiration this week was working with a company where the manager had to report certain financial matters to the Board. Now, it’s fair to say that whilst the manager is a total inspiration in her own field of expertise, the idea of accounts and budgets bored her to tears.  

Our session this week related to the link between her overall strategy in relation to income (in this case, the need for training budgets and improvements). However, during the discussion, we came across a situation of staff disengagement between her and the financial controller. The story was a familiar one; where the staff member was late and inaccurate in supplying essential information. The staff member concerned was clearly unhappy and felt put upon, as well as taken for granted.  

Clearly, the current situation was a stalemate. Whilst there had been performance meetings, there was clearly a disconnection between the two parties. We then questioned the manager’s techniques in dealing with the issue and it became clear that no progress was being made. We then had to decide between capability and conduct.  

Whilst the current behaviour may have been affected by pressures outside of work, it was evident that the manager needed to be clearer in communicating the company’s needs, and to offer support in her quest to obtain the information she needed in an appropriate timeframe.

The strategy we agreed on is as follows:-

·   The manager is to prepare a full list of the items she needs in order to make decisions. In addition, the manager will include a “wish list” of items not already included in the budget.

·        The manager will also conduct a rough “time and motion” study for the items she wishes to see completed within the job role. In this, the manager will need to be generous in the time allowance.  

·        The two parties will schedule an appraisal time in a meeting lasting no more than 60 minutes where the manager will outline the items she needs to be able to receive and understand. The manager will also invite the staff member to contribute to the timings she thinks appropriate for each task within her job description.

·        The team member will be asked to suggest additions to the items that would assist both of them in budgeting forecasts, along with a proposal towards anything that may make their role easier (training, better software or perhaps additional resources).

·        The two parties will then schedule a follow up meeting no more than a week later to agree on matters.

What will happen? Well, one of three outcomes:-

The best solution is that the staff member will feel more involved and empowered by having an input in the role. Their knowledge and ideas will also be used to progress the aims of the business.

Secondly, and this may well reveal a capability or support issue, the staff member may need additional training or perhaps support and engagement to be able to fall back in love with the role.

Lastly, the situation is brought to a head and the parties end up parting company. Whilst this is the least preferred option, the long-term outcome may be better for the staff member whose needs may be different to that which the business can supply.

Recruiting and training new staff is always a costly and time-consuming process. If you get to a situation where you reach a stalemate, we would suggest stepping back to consider a different approach.

All employees understand the need for a business to cover its own costs and by allowing them to provide solutions, you will engage them better. In some cases it may be too late, but one thing is certain, an unhealthy atmosphere will spread and become destructive. Therefore, a solution must be addressed, however uncomfortable that may be.

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