4 signs you have an employee engagement issue.

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Did you know that just 15 percent of employees are actually engaged at work? That means the vast majority of U.S. employees are at least somewhat checked out at work — and that probably applies to a portion of your workforce, as well. But how do you know which portion? And what would you do about it if you did know? And does engagement even matter that much?

The short answer: Yes, it matters. A lot. 

The longer answer: Organizations that have the highest levels of employee engagement can have up to 59 percent lower turnover, 70 percent fewer employee safety incidents, 17 percent more productivity and 20 percent higher sales than companies with the lowest levels of engagement, according to Gallup. In short, employee engagement touches almost every facet of your business, and you need a plan in place to make sure your staff is interested and invested at work. 

But before you take action, here's how to read the signs and separate the signal from the noise when it comes to employee engagement.

your employees aren't communicating proactively

Does communication with your team seem like a one-way street? When the flow of communication slows down — or stops altogether — it may be a sign that employees are checking out. If you see this happening at your organization, take a moment to consider the cause. Has there been a change in priorities, assignments or team leaders? How well are day-to-day objectives aligned with the bigger-picture business strategy and vision? Do employees feel like their feedback is being heard and their questions are being answered?

If communication from team members is beginning to dwindle, intervene as early as possible — before the issue worsens.

productivity and/or quality are declining

Having the right metrics in place is the only way you can get a read on the overall health of your business. So when teams suddenly start coming up short on KPIs or SLAs — and then come up short again and again — it's a safe bet something must be wrong. But what?

Any recent changes to the way your business operates are a likely culprit. It's easy for new managers, for instance, to cause inadvertent and unforeseen changes in the way that direct reports experience work on a day-to-day basis. Alternately, the change in productivity or quality could reflect interpersonal issues among staff or a dissatisfaction with recent changes to your workspace, both of which you and your HR partner could address. Whatever the case may be, it's critical to take steps to get out ahead of issues like these, which very often correlate with declining employee engagement.

employees start physically avoiding work

We all manage to sleep through the alarm clock once in a while, or get backed up by traffic or have to leave early from work for an appointment. It happens. But disengaged employees are far more likely to make a habit of shirking work — and, by paying close attention to when employees are clocking in and clocking out, you'll be able to effectively anticipate and address problems with engagement.

This patten of behavior can also spill over to sick days and PTO. If you're seeing declining productivity or quality of work with a specific employee, and that employee is also running up sicks days and PTO, it's a good idea to check in as soon as possible.

turnover is increasing

Does it seem like employees are running for the exits in droves? Are top performers leaving for greener pastures? Do your new hires only last a few months? If so, you've clearly got an engagement problem — and a retention issue. Retention problems often stem from a lack of engagement, so in this case, it's in your best interest to treat the symptoms, as well as the disease itself.

One way to start is by conducting exit interviews with departing employees. These can help you root out the source of your engagement issues so you can begin creating a solution.

where to start with employee engagement

Just because you're experiencing issues with employee engagement, it doesn't mean your entire enterprise has to suffer. Here are some tips for correcting course and taking action to have a positive impact on employee engagement.

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