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Laura Matthews

Barnett Waddingham

Workplace Wellbeing Consultant

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6 ways to mobilise ‘coasters’ in the workplace


An unhappy workforce leads to poor productivity and high staff turnover. But what if employers could make simple changes to boost the morale of this disaffected group and improve company performance at the same time?

In our recently published Why BWell report, we found that 32% of employees in the UK are coasting though their career. While there will always be some people doing just enough to get by, our research indicated that many people coast because they are unhappy with the state of things at work.

Reasons for this can include their employer not making the best use of their skills, their job not providing them with meaningful work or the ability to add value, or a lack of career progression and support. Mobilising these ‘reluctant coasters’ by addressing these issues can offer big rewards in terms of productivity, which has been directly linked to employee happiness.

People coast because they are unhappy with the state of things at work.

Another major incentive for employers is financial. Coasters are a far bigger flight risk than other members of staff and working out what makes this group tick could encourage more to stick around, reducing costs associated with high turnover. Here are some things you can do to engage and re-motivate those who are coasting.

1. Data and insights

Organisations often know more about their customers than they do about their employees. Collecting as much information as you can about your employees through data and insight gathering is incredibly important.

Information should be collected from the start of an employee’s journey with you, until the minute they leave. Regular collation and analysis of this alongside employee opinion, collected via engagement, wellbeing, general or pulse surveys creates a full picture of your workforce which will allow for prioritised and targeted interventions.

2. Take an interest

Almost a third of workers (29%) who coast feel that their company shows no interest in them as a person, compared to only 3% of those who feel they are flourishing in their workplace. Employees have lives outside the workplace and to get the best from them we need to understand what their motivations, preferences and desires are.

Asking the right questions will give real insight into attitudes to the workplace, as well as how they are feeling outside of work. This will not only ensure you are adopting the right strategies to engage your employees but also show you have a real interest in them as a person.

3. Line managers are key

Line managers play a hugely important role within the workplace. Not only should they be keeping morale high, but they need to also demonstrate effective leadership skills and be good listeners. They are the key to building workplace trust amongst their teams and should be able to quickly identify when someone is not performing at their best.

The right conversations can be held to understand what is needed to support and motivate the individual. Organisations need to make sure their managers are equipped to support their employees, including being aware of support pathways and interventions available.

4. Regular one-to-ones

Annual performance reviews are becoming outdated. Performance discussions should take place regularly and continually. Monthly meetings support the tracking of any professional development requirements, monitoring and amending personal objectives, whilst providing one to one support, coaching, guidance and feedback.

This will help drive engagement alongside productivity and also give the employee an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions. In turn, this allows businesses to realise who their high performers and at risk employees are, whilst using this information to drive retention and engagement rates.

5. Invest in your employees

Creating an environment where employees can learn, develop and grow will make them feel like they are part of the business and its progress. This is fundamental to creating a successful organisation.

Worryingly, the research found that less than half (47%) of the UK’s workers feel that their employers support their personal and professional development. If you are not encouraging employees to develop, you are encouraging them to coast and this will ultimately lead to high turnover.

Creating an environment where employees can learn, develop and grow will make them feel like they are part of the business and its progress.

Forty one per cent of coasters did not think they would remain in their current job for another 12 months, compared to just 9% of those flourishing. According to Oxford Economics, the average cost to replace an employee is around £30,000, so high turnover can have a big financial impact.

6. Creating meaningful work, shared value and benefit

The relationship between employer and employee is becoming less transactional and much more about creating an experience that encourages shared value and benefit.

Less than half (48%) who coast say that their job is meaningful and that they can add value in comparison to 89% who are flourishing at work. Coasters are also three times less likely to feel recognised for their contribution to the business in comparison to those who flourish.

Firstly, understand your workforce down to the individual. Link in with the goals of the business, but also link in with how each employee is contributing to this. This will help with providing meaningful work. Secondly, employers having the means to develop a culture that recognises contributions and rewards its employees accordingly.

Author Profile Picture
Laura Matthews

Workplace Wellbeing Consultant

Read more from Laura Matthews