Best Practices in HR

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Robert Brown
  August 17, 2021

Engagement and the Needs of Your People

Up until the early 1900s when the government enacted factory and child labor laws, nobody showed much concern for the well-being of the average worker. The realization that happy, healthy people improve productivity and increase profits has been comparatively recent, historically speaking.

Now that managers and business owners understand the importance of a positive workplace experience and the benefits of high employee engagement, it’s imperative they learn to gauge how their organization is faring in both areas. Common signs of disengagement can include:

  • A decline in productivity
  • Overactive PTO (paid time off)
  • Negativity
  • Colleague complaints

Decline in Productivity

Happy people are productive people. They’re self-motivated, meet deadlines, make sales, and get positive results in whatever capacity they operate. If you notice that the quantity or quality of an individual’s work starts to diminish, you can be sure there’s an underlying problem. 

With a loss in productivity, it’s possible the person may be experiencing personal problems unrelated to work. A good manager will take the time to get to the bottom of the issue, regardless if he or she can solve it. 

Measuring Productivity with Employee Surveys

However, if you notice that an entire department’s (or worse, the entire organization’s) productivity has declined, an employee survey can help you measure the overall satisfaction level among your people to see if you’re meeting their needs.

With Olumo’s feedback solution, your people can fill out surveys and polls with ease via SMS or email, spurring the collection of more data on a more frequent basis. Short SMS surveys allow a person to answer in seconds, without the hassle of a login or an app to download. Crafting an employee survey that caters to the routines of the recipients will improve response rate and allow for a broad range of useful real-time feedback. See how it works!

Overactive PTO

If you’re meeting your people’s needs, they’ll enjoy coming to work. Of course, paid time off is a standard benefit for full-time staff, and everybody should use their PTO to promote a healthy work-life balance. Also, life happens – people get sick and emergencies arise.

However, if people are calling in sick or taking personal days so frequently that it affects their productivity or puts a strain on the workload of others, this is a sign they’re unhappy with the workplace experience and might be looking for ways to avoid it. They may even be interviewing with other companies, necessitating their absence from the office.

To foster a positive workplace experience that prioritizes well-being, ask questions to help you gauge if people feel unhappy, such as:

  • Do you feel optimistic about your future with the company?
  • How does the company’s attentiveness to your emotional welfare impact your ability to perform?
  • If something is frustrating you or making you feel uneasy, do you feel comfortable talking to your manager about it?
  • How could the company provide better support to people who experience difficult situations?


Another surefire sign that employee engagement is low is an increase in negativity. If the office once resounded with good-natured chatter, but now it’s wrapped in surly silence, then something could be wrong. 

Also, if someone who previously had a can-do attitude now expresses doubt about the abilities of themselves, others, or the company to produce good results, then he or she is most likely feeling unfulfilled.

Pay attention to whether the problem is isolated or if you notice that negativity is becoming a company-wide trend. If it’s spreading, then it’s time for an employee survey to pinpoint the fundamental issues.

Handling Negative Feedback from Employee Surveys

As feedback is collected, you’ll likely see negative feedback regarding your team and even yourself. This can be difficult to manage if you aren’t prepared, so follow three steps to prepare yourself for negative employee feedback:

  1. Treat it as a learning opportunity
  2. Assess your role in creating the sentiment
  3. Know this is empowering you to make change

You can’t change a problem if you’re unaware of it. Getting negative feedback is the only way you’ll be able to move forward with changes that will motivate and bring happiness to people. Knowing everyone’s sentiments is the first step you can take to make improvements to the workplace experience and positively impact productivity.

Colleague Complaints

One of the drearier responsibilities of managing is fielding complaints. It would be unrealistic to expect to never hear grievances, for people will always find reasons to be dissatisfied. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously. Take note of the nature and frequency of the complaints. Is there an uptick in complaints? If so, recognize that as a sign that people feel management isn’t meeting their needs. Does one complaint surface more than others? 

While you may not enjoy being on the receiving end of complaints, they’re the clearest way to measure employee engagement and monitor the workplace experience. In a way, complaints are their own employee survey, because your people are coming forward and informing you of problems. Recognition is the first step toward resolution.

People Needs

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “Only 13 percent of employees across the globe are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s latest 142-country report on [employee] engagement. That amounts to only about one in eight employees or 180 million employees who are committed to their jobs. Most employees, about 63 percent, are simply not engaged at all.” 

Employee disengagement stems from unmet needs or expectations. Therefore, any discussion about not meeting people’s needs would be incomplete without pinpointing what those needs are. As stated by ATD, they are:

  • A sense of belonging – People need a sense of emotional connection to the organization where they work. Think about the amount of time the average person spends at work. If they don’t feel like they’re part of a supportive community, their career and life satisfaction will suffer.
  • Fun factor – Work should have an element of fun. This fun can come from pleasant relationships with colleagues and management, authentic interest in job responsibilities, and a concerted effort on the part of management to promote employee engagement through enjoyable experiences and activities.
  • Alignment – People need to know they’re an integral part of the big picture. They need to see how their contributions make a difference in the organization, and this alignment goes a long way toward developing a satisfying workplace experience.
  • Recognition – Recognition goes hand-in-hand with organizational alignment. People need to not only buy into their pivotal place in the organization – they need to be recognized for it. 
  • Advancement – The status quo isn’t acceptable for those with drive and ambition. Talented individuals don’t want to remain still. People will be engaged and motivated when they know they can advance, learn, and grow in your company.

Engage Your People the Right Way

Active employee engagement, characterized by cheerful, present, productive, and loyal people, is a sign that you’re meeting employee needs and providing a thriving workplace experience. 

If, however, your people seem disengaged, as evidenced by a decrease in productivity, overactive PTO, or a rise in negativity and complaints, consider conducting an employee survey to identify how you can better meet their needs. Your bottom line will thank you.

According to a Gallup poll, 51% of people are not engaged in the workplace. It may be easier to bury your head in the sand and ignore such stats, but you do so at your organization’s peril. Your people are truly the lifeblood of your organization – they know your company better than anyone, and you’d do well to listen to what they have to say.

It’s not hard to get started. Talk to us at Olumo to learn how easy it is to set up simple, consistent, and 100% anonymous employee surveys!