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Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Time to Get Off the Bench

There’s a lot of data circulating in recent months, including our own, that cite how many employees are displeased with management, disengaged, stressed with more work and longer hours and looking for opportunities to leave. But will they really leave? As Dan Walter put it in a recent post: “Employee engagement surveys are like New Year’s Resolutions.” Meaning, what people say they want to do is not always what they actually do.

But the reality is employees are leaving. One in two employees has been approached with a job offer in the past 6 months, while 54% of companies reported losing top performers in the same time period.

Our own engagement research found that as many as one in two employees are disengaged. If you are doing your own engagement studies, then you have insights into how your own employees are feeling. If you have the data, act on it. Those who “quit and stay” -- we call them "Benchwarmers" -- are a real drain on productivity. While many may want to quit, the worst thing is that many don’t. Instead, you run the risk of them quitting in terms of their commitment and loyalty, but staying on the payroll just the same. That is not to say that these people are no longer valuable to the organization. They may have just lost interst in their job or role but could still be highly committed to the organization’s direction, values and culture. Oftentimes, with the right type of re-assignment, re-deployment or expanded job responsibilities, these people can be effectively re-engaged. It is often far more cost effective to look for ways to re-engage this group rather than lose these people who you've invested in and who possess valuable institutional knonwledge.

Either way, you’re courting disaster if you don’t address the problems within the organization that are leading to high levels of disengagement, while failing to support one of the greatest sources of influence on engagement levels: managers. If left unaddressed, customer service, ability to attract high caliber talent, the employer brand, productivity, and ultimately, performance will all suffer. Make the hard decisions fast about the complacent employees who are warming your benches. No company is going to move to the number one position in their industry with a complacent workforce.

Do you know who the benchwarmers are in your organization? Do you know your options for dealing with them?

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