Disengaged and Unengaged Employees - What's the Difference?

Is there even a difference? and why does it matter?

It turns out there definitely is a difference! Disengagement and unengagement are very different problems, with different solutions required to deal with them.

A report from Gallup shows that a staggering 63% of employees today are "not engaged" in their jobs and that more than a quarter (24%) are "actively disengaged".

Shocking! But these statistics don’t answer a key question on the lips of HR professionals and business leaders across the globe. Can those employees who fall into these categories be swayed in favour or their employer once again or are they a lost cause?

In order to make improvements, companies must first understand the true nature of workplace engagement, and determine which employees are unengaged, compared to those who are disengaged.

The Unengaged Employee...

  • Doesn’t care about the company they work for and never has
  • Is not emotionally invested in the success of the company
  • Works only for the money
  • Has no enjoyment or job satisfaction
  • Does the bare minimum
  • Has a long term issue – this is not due to recent changes

Unfortunately these employees are a drain on company time, resources and are a barrier to successful company culture. With almost no motivation, they can be very difficult to work alongside. It's likely that only a radical change or restructure within their working environment would instigate any sort of positive action or response from these employees.

FREE Employee Satisfaction Survey Guide and Template   There's no better way to understand and measure your current level of employee  engagement, than asking directly. Click here to get started with your free  employee satisfaction guide!

The Disengaged Employee...

  • Was previously motivated and keen to work but has lost their drive
  • Has suffered a loss of confidence through lack of respect or trust of management
  • Could be motivated by additional training or one-on-one time
  • Would work harder if their efforts were recognised
  • Has the potential to be a good worker once again

When employee efforts and contributions aren’t recognised, it's natural for them to feel as though they're making little impact on an organisation. However, the disengaged employee is not such a long-term situation as the unengaged - by implementing small changes it's possible that this employee could be re-engaged.

Making the Change

Work should be fulfilling for every employee, engaging the mind and making sure tasks aren't too repetitive. Boredom accounts for measurable levels of decreased productivity, so by making sure there's variety and room for creative input, employees will feel that they're offering a useful contribution to the company.

Employee recognition is a key contributing factor to better output for an organisation. Ensuring your business has an effective rewards and recognition scheme which is respected by all levels of staff – including management – is key to motivating your workforce.

As good as it is to start utilising reward and recognition schemes, there are other factors you'll have to think about if you're serious about improving workplace engagement.

Communication with employees allows them to voice their opinions, as well as providing the employer with vital feedback to help improve overall satisfaction. Routes for progression, training, a feeling of worth and strong peer-to-peer and manager/employee relationships all contribute.

At the end of the day, not every employee is going to suddenly become highly engaged because of a change in management style or a new scheme being launched by HR professionals. However, if the working atmosphere is more positive to begin with, then fewer employees should slip through the net.

Looking to find out more about how engagement (or a lack of it!) can affect a company? 

employee satisfaction survey guide and template