How to re-engage your apathetic employees

How to Re-engage Your Apathetic Employees


When companies don’t proactively partner with their employees to tell the brand’s story, those employees can slowly chip away at the brand’s reputation (or at least hinder its potential growth). The silent employees, the insincere ones, and the ones who are misrepresenting the company can be managed fairly simply. Once employees understand the company’s social media guidelines and know you support them sharing their own views, it’s easy to get these groups on the same page. The trash talking employees are unfortunately not as easy to manage. Unfortunately, if employees are so hostile that they’re frequently bad mouthing you, you’ll be hard pressed to change their minds.

So who does that leave? The apathetic employees. This group is disengaged, doesn’t care, and is essentially sleepwalking through the day. You know when you have a rough night’s sleep, feel unmotivated and do the bare minimum to get through the day? That’s the everyday reality for these apathetic, disengaged employees. Not exactly a dream come true for them or for their companies.

On the plus side, these employees aren’t hostile; they’re just disconnected. If they’ve lost sight of the mission, vision, and goals of the organization and how they fit in, you can step in and re-engage them.

Weber Shandwick’s recent study, Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, refers to these employees as the InActives, and recommends stepping in before these employees become actively disengaged. However, engagement isn’t as simple as giving them a salary bump. You have to show these employees that they are valuable to the organization and that you care. How can you do that?

4 Steps to Re-engage the Inactives

Step 1) Connect with supervisors to determine who falls in this group

Some organizations distribute employee engagement surveys to measure engagement. These can provide insights that could be missed since they’re anonymous and employees may be more likely to give honest feedback. However, it’s important that these surveys not just be collected and forgotten about. If no actions are taken on them, employees won’t take them seriously.

If you have managers who are really tuned into the needs, wants, and true feelings of their direct reports, you should speak candidly with them. Find out what’s separating the disengaged from the engaged and what measures the company can take to reconnect with the disengaged.

Step 2) Partner with managers to put engagement initiatives in place

After finding out who falls in this InActive group and the reasons why they are disengaged, you need to show them that you’re serious. Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all program when it comes to employee engagement. Use surveys or conversations with supervisors to find out what’s lacking, whether it’s communication with the leadership team, transparency, insight into how their role fits into the organization, or something else. Whatever your research shows is missing is where you need to focus your efforts with managers.

Step 3) Monitor the results of your program and refine as necessary

Don’t just send out new surveys six months after working to re-engage employees and see if responses have changed. Pay attention to retention, productivity, sick days taken, and make sure to get feedback and thoughts directly from the supervisors and from employees themselves.

Step 4) Further engage these employees with employee advocacy

If you already have an employee advocacy program, once these InActives become more engaged, they’ll be more interested in being advocates, which will only further engage them.

If you don’t have an employee advocacy program in place, once you engage more employees, you’ll have employees who will be great champions to help you launch an employee advocacy program.

To learn how to develop an employee advocacy strategy that will engage your employees, watch this video session with employee advocacy experts from Intel, IBM, and Deloitte.

Post Author

Todd McMullen

Todd McMullen is a Director of Sales at Dynamic Signal. He brings 15 years of experience in tech with expertise in social business, gamification, and employee engagement. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two kids. Outside of the office, you can find Todd cooking, fishing, or skiing.