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The 6 causes of disengagement. And how the recession makes them worse.

1. I can’t be engaged if I’m overwhelmed

2. I can’t be engaged if I don’t get it

3. I can’t be engaged if I’m scared

4. I can’t be engaged if I don’t see the big picture

5. I can’t be engaged if it’s not mine

6. I can’t be engaged if my leaders don’t face reality*

Those are the six main forces pulling against employee engagement. And you can instantly see that the recession has a direct impact on each of these causes.

Here are six tips for countering those six effects

1. Overwhelm. Yes, people are more likely to feel overwhelmed in a downturn. Doing more with less adds to people’s workloads. Don’t just divide up the work if people have had to leave. Help people assess the elements that help deliver your core purpose – that are critical to strategy execution – and those that aren’t.

2. Don’t ‘get it’. Yes, people will be disengaged if you don’t explain in a compelling way WHAT we are doing to ride out the recession and WHY we are doing it. Repeatedly.

3. Fear. Definitely, people are more scared in a recession. Get out among them and give them as clear information as you can. Uncertainty breeds fear.

4. The big picture. If people don’t have a direct line of sight between their own daily actions and the bigger picture – a clear idea of how the things they do every day contribute directly towards your organization staying ahead of the recession – then they won’t be engaged. It’s up to you to provide that if it’s lacking.

5. ‘It’s not mine’. In a recession, people feel they are not in control of events, that they don’t know what’s coming next. Admit it: you do, too. Counter that lack of control over external events by giving people control over what they do at work – make it ‘theirs’. Provide clear objectives, make them accountable, but let them run with it.

6. Leaders need to face reality. Use the people closest to the market as your ear to the ground and work out with them, with your own bosses, and with peers what you need to change, and what you need to keep the same, to adjust to the new reality in the market.

*The six main forces pulling against engagement are from Jim Haudan, CEO of Root Learning and author of The Art of Engagement. The six tips for dealing with them are from me.

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