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In troubled times business must do more with less.  There may be fewer people in your business, fewer customers, less capital, less cash….  But one thing you do want less of is people ‘Chucking a Sicky’

As a result, there some simple options available to do more with less:

  1. Whinge to anyone who might still be interested in listening
  2. Innovate – find new ways of doing things
  3. Maximise your return on what you do have… that is ‘how engaged is the team?’

I have blogged regularly about employees discretionary effort… but Gallup has just given me a sneak look at this year’s Australian Employee Engagement results.

“For every engaged person there is a disengaged person”
Gallup Organization.

Actively disengaged (these are people who hate going to work) has increased (at the expense of engaged employees) significantly.

The scary thing is that in tough times – people are also less likely to leave you (that means the bad ones are staying too). Of those disengaged employees only 45% are planning to look for a new job in 2009… even worse some 24% are planning to stay with their employer for the rest of their working life. I suppose that is the real definition of love/hate relationship.

Engaged employees (know what they are there to do and are busy getting on with it) has gone down from 21% in 2006 to 18% in 2008.

These figures were just completed in November… and says to me that people are more confused now and they are not getting clear messages from the leadership of their organisations… a 3% swing in only 2 years is massive. This will cost Australia dearly.

Not engaged employees are those who show up – but don’t do anything extra – this is the group which has a lot of discretionary effort to give. And in the study in both 2008 & 2006, it remains unchanged at 61%

The scary thing is that Actively Disengaged employees are growing in big numbers. Ie these people will work against what their co-workers or managers are trying to achieve. From 18% in 2006 up to 21% now.
This is really hurting business – and is simply untenable in such extreme economic times. The estimate of what it is costing Australia in lost productivity is:

  • Australia –  $33.5b – $42.1b  (2006 = $32.7b)
  • New Zealand $5.6b – $5.96b (2006 = $3.7b)

If the bottom line is not enough to get you thinking about how aligned your team is to what you are doing to reward and recognise them for their contribution, here’s some more evidence:

Funny how if you don’t like what you do – you are more likely to get sick. The ‘Australian Sickie’ has got to go. And if people are simply recognised for what they contribute, they are far less likely to take a sick day.

Number of Work Days missed through sickness in the past 12 months

  • Engaged = 3
  • Not engaged = 5
  • Actively disengaged = 8

Also, those who like you, engaged employees will stay. 89% plan to be with the same employer for the next 12 months. (Not only are they the top performers, but they also cost less in recruitment/replacement costs)

The investment in people is essential… it just makes so much bottom line sense.

Reader Interactions


  1. Very interesting post. Love the stats about number of sick days by level of engagement. Fascinating…

  2. All businesses need to monitor the level of sick leave in their business. If the level is high then it is sending a strong message to management on their leadership effectiveness.

    In my experience disengagement doesn’t just happen – it takes work! It could be poor hiring processes, non-existent induction, lack of training, no clarity of business direction, absence of reward or recognition for a job well done and poor leadership.

    My philosophy is no one comes to work deliberately to do a bad job – they want to succeed. As leaders and managers our role is to help people to engage with our business and our customers. If people have disengaged, rather than pointing the finger at them, we need to look at what we have done to contribute to the situation.

  3. I find this blog really sad. Can you imagine going to work to not do anything, not achieve and be totally miserable? Yuck.

    As the blessed director of a team that has witnessed engagement of the enth degree I really believe that engagement starts with leaders working out what individual staff wants to be engaged in. You cannot simply push a job description on to someone and expect that they will roll up their sleeves and get working ALL the time.

    A saying that I use with all my team is facilitate- don’t dictate.

    Engaged staff are an absolute joy to work with and watch grow and develop – disengaged staff need you to do them a favour. Attempt to work with them or encourage them to follow their dreams. You can still be a good leader even in the relationship break up stage- talk to them about their goals, discuss their plans for the future, put steps in place to generate a positive task completion before they leave and write them a reference that reflects their strengths. Not everyone was born knowing what they want to do and if they are past home age- who is encouraging them in their lives now?

    As leaders we have a responsibility to help them grow – not simply pass the buck. If sickies are costing Australia – I bet disengaged leaders are costing us more.

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