Detecting disengaged employees and what to do next

by HCA11 Nov 2014
Any HR professional who conducts exit interviews will encounter employees who have felt disengaged for some time but whether it comes as a surprise or not, by that point you’re powerless to improve the situation. CEO Cori Maedel says holding ‘stay interviews’ could be the solution.

“Too often, employers discover how disengaged an employee is (or was) during the exit interview, instead of uncovering it while there’s still chance to do something about it,” reveals Maedel, who heads up the Vancouver-based HR consulting and coaching firm ‘the Jouta Performance Group’.

Spotting a disengaged employee isn’t always easy – performance doesn’t necessarily suffer so you might be at risk of losing your top talent, without even realising.

Maedel proposes that HR professionals could better detect employee dissatisfaction and therefore counter unwanted exit interviews by conducting ‘stay interviews’ where, with the right questions, employers can have open conversations about satisfaction and commitment.

So how do you hold a stay-interview?

“Pay attention not just to what’s being said but to what’s left unsaid,” advises Maedel.  “Engaged employees are quick to offer feedback, whereas disengaged employees may just go through the motions, using few words.”

“Also take note of body language – if they seem excited or animated, it’s a sign of passion and engagement. If they seem deflated or closed off, despite their words, these could be signs of disengagement.”

Holding a stay-interview might help you detect a disengaged employee but it’s just the first step of many to re-engaging them. It’s important to recognise engagement as a moving target, says Maedel – if you want to maintain a motivated team you’ll have to open an ongoing conversation.

“To keep people engaged, remain curious and connected with your employees,” she urges.


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