Advice for employers on employee stagnation
Personal productivity is a key part of organisational success. That’s why today’s leaders and managers need their people to be motivated to do the very best they can. But how can employers spot the subtle symptoms of an employee who is struggling to feel engaged with their day job? And how can they take action when they do?
In my role as a career coach, I have worked with hundreds of individuals who have experienced career stagnation of some form or another. The reasons for this can be hugely varied – from a simple lack of promotion to a more complex issue with team dynamics. Sometimes they are unhappy in their careers for reasons beyond an employer’s control. Whatever the reasons, the results are the same – they will either wait until things hit crisis point at work and then decide to leave, or find themselves just drifting in their career with a vague sense of not having fulfilled their potential. In either scenario they will feel disengaged and demotivated, and this will undoubtedly have a significant impact on their work.
In today’s purpose-driven world, the common thread through all this is that employees want to experience a sense of meaning through their career or their organisation. Indeed, I would advise that there is a clear correlation between meaningfulness and the avoidance of employee stagnation – find meaning, and job satisfaction and performance will quickly follow.
But what does meaning look like in an organisation, and how can it be achieved? For employees, it can manifest itself in a number of different ways:
- A sense of purpose – understanding how the company communicates the impact of its work on society
- A sense of choice – having autonomy and being able to choose how to use their skills and judgement
- A sense of competence – being valued for their contribution and being recognised for it
- A sense of progress – having opportunities to develop skills, improve and work on new challenges
This might be easy enough to understand in theory – but putting it into practice will require effort. Proactive and forward thinking employers can incorporate meaning into their strategies for employee career development through:
1. An employee engagement strategy – Communicating key information on a regular basis, involving them in business decisions and listening to their suggestions will ensure that employees feel valued and can contribute to their sense of purpose. Encouraging managers and staff alike to communicate with openness and integrity will enable issues to be spotted and dealt with quickly.
2. Training your managers – Dissatisfaction with a manager is often a key reason people leave their jobs. If managers don’t know how to deal with poor performance or develop their team then employees won’t hang around. Good managers are the foundation for good performance.
3. Being creative with employee development – If employees can’t see any opportunities for learning or clear future prospects then they will look elsewhere – risking a ‘brain drain’. To counter this, develop a culture where mentoring, coaching, secondments, stretch assignments and skills development are the norm.
4. An open and transparent Talent Plan – Having a robust talent plan in place is key to business growth – employees need to know how they can develop and progress within the company. If progression is slow then consider looking for other ways to challenge and stretch employees.
5. Monitoring team health – Conducting a regular audit of employee health will help you identify any challenges or signs of stagnation at their early stage.
Employee stagnation is bad for business – loss of talent, lacklustre performance and high turnover all have costs that impact long-term profitability. But it is easily preventable so take a look around, consider the meaning within your employees’ day – and do something about it.