It’s not difficult to evaluate the level of an employee’s engagement with his or her company. “These employees are not hostile or disruptive,” writes Amy Adkins of Gallup. “They show up and kill time, doing the minimum required with little extra effort to go out of their way for customers.”

What’s more, unengaged employees “are less vigilant, more likely to miss work and change jobs when opportunities arise.” In essence, Adkins notes, they are “checked out” of their jobs.

If your employees don’t fit this description, consider yourself lucky. According to a 2015 Gallup survey, the majority of employees (50.8 percent) are “not engaged,” with another 17 percent “actively disengaged.” Gallup’s employee engagement survey was based on tracking interviews with more than 80,000 adults working for an employer in the U.S.

Of even greater concern than these lackluster findings of employee engagement is the fact that, since Gallup initiated these annual surveys in 2000, “less than one-third of the U.S. workforce has been engaged in their jobs in any given year.”

This should be regarded as a clear warning sign to businesses concerned with the high cost (both in money and resources) of continuous employee turnover. A lack of employee engagement spells trouble for every business in the U.S. today.

What does engagement look like?

Gallup assesses engagement based on respondents’ ratings of key workplace elements, such as “having the opportunity to do what they do best each day,” as well as having the support and encouragement of others within the organization.

Engaged employees have an emotional connection to the organization and its goals. They don’t simply work for a paycheck, or to advance up the corporate ladder. They work to promote the company’s objectives and vision, and in their daily lives embody the organization’s mission and values.

What does disengagement look like?

Disengaged employees are typically easy to identify. As noted, they put in their time, rather than strive for greater productivity and creativity. They tend to be absent from the job more often than their engaged counterparts. Generally speaking, they’re more inclined to share their negative feelings with others, which left unchecked can damage workplace morale. Worse yet, their negativity influences contact with customers, a potentially costly scenario for their employers.

An earlier Gallup survey estimated that “this widespread indifference among employees costs businesses an estimated $450 to $550 billion annually.”

What are the business benefits of engagement?

Employees’ attitudes clearly determine how much they feel engaged with the company for which they work. Engaged employees:

  • Believe what they do has value for the organization
  • Work harder because of this belief
  • Feel upbeat about the workplace and demonstrate this in positive daily interactions with fellow employees, managers and customers
  • Are less motivated to seek employment elsewhere

Employees are an organization’s greatest asset, but most businesses don’t invest the time and resources to ensure its employees are engaged.

How do you get to engagement?

It’s important to note that employee engagement isn’t effectively addressed by occasional employee surveys. Again, as Gallup notes, engagement “is about investing in everyday working moments and incorporating engagement concepts into the workflow.” As new initiatives emerge, “managers may need to reset employee expectations, provide workers with new resources and ensure employees have opportunities to do what they do best.”

Here are suggested paths to enhanced involvement among your employees:

Create memorable employee experiences. Employees become more engaged when they work (or play) together as a team. This can be achieved by staging team-based experiences either in or out of the workplace — a themed scavenger hunt, for example, or an “outdoor adventure” trip sponsored by the employer. Such experiences not only boost morale, they help establish a stronger connection between employees and with the business itself.

Rally around your brand mission. A fair amount of disengagement stems from employees’ lack of understanding of what the business stands for. Create opportunities to educate your workforce on the brand’s mission and values. Incorporating elements of fun and surprise go a long way toward solidifying this understanding among employees.

Make the workplace environment more engaging. If your employees are all sequestered in cubicles, it’s not surprising that they may feel disconnected. Look at ways to “open” the work environment with a floor plan that helps facilitate collaboration and creativity.

Ultimately, engaged employees deliver higher quality service, which leads to higher customer satisfaction. This translates into higher sales and higher profit margins. If that’s not enough to spur your business on to improved programs of employee engagement, what is?

 About Claire Holland:

Claire Holland is Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA in Chicago, a brand experience agency specializing in experiential, digital and traditional engagement. She guides the strategic vision of the company’s brand, messaging and voice, while supporting and evolving employee alignment programs for clients.