There’s a lot of emphasis on employee engagementthese days – what is it, how can we improve it, etc. Every business is striving for high engagement levels, and why not. If your business has high levels of engagement then your employees will go above and beyond to help grow and develop your business. But if your employees are disengaged then your business could suffer.

Problems caused by having low employee engagement

Improving engagement

Perhaps it’s time to try a new approach. Rather than thinking, ‘how can I improve employee engagement?’, I want you to flip it on its head and ask yourself, ‘how can I stop employees being disengaged?

That’s because there is a difference between low levels of engagement and disengaged employees. Along with thinking up new ways to drive employee engagement within your organisation, you should also think of ways to address the issue of disengaged employees. I promise you they are not the same.

The employee-manager relationship

One of the critical components of engagement, and job satisfaction, is the relationship employees have with their manager. In fact, one of the primary causes of employee disengagement is the employee-manager relationship. Which means that, ensuring your managers have the skills to engage their team can give you quick and significant improvements in the levels of disengaged employees.

As an employer it’s your responsibility to ensure your managers have the necessary skills, abilities and knowledge to manage their team. If they don’t, then you need to support them to improve their management skills.

However, in the meantime here are five ways managers can work with their team to encourage disengaged employees to become more engaged:

1. Don’t always focus on the negatives

Managers can really motivate and engage their team by making them feel valued. This means celebrating success and effort. Sometimes things don’t always work out, but, if you always focus on the negatives, your employees will become afraid to try, afraid to take risks. Reinforce that they have the skills to succeed, otherwise you would not have hired them, and thatthey can count on you for support if they feel they need it.

2. Pick positive examples to inspire, rather than examples that shame

If you want to inspire your team then give them positive examples. Case studies are great for sharing with your team. If you don’t have a relevant example, then talk about what success looks like, and explain what needs to happen in order for the individual or the team to achieve that success. Never ever pick out an individual’s error and highlight it in front of their colleagues.

3. Listen to your team

Managing a team isn’t a one-way conversation. In performance reviews, give your employees a chance tell you what support or tools they need to perform better in their job. Invite your employees to make their voices heard, and listen to their opinions and thoughts, and alwaysact on your employees’ comments and suggestions, even if it’s only to let them know why an idea isn’t being implemented.

4. Talk like a member of the team

Watch your language! Using the wrong language can quickly alienate your team members, and create a ‘them and us mentality’. Of course I don’t mean that you need to get ‘down with the kids’, rather that you need to talk about ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘the team’, rather than ‘you’ – the employee.

5. End on a high note

Always end individual and team meetings on a high note by thanking them for the effort they are putting in, and reminding them of their achievements, both individually and as a team, since the last meeting.

Encourage your managers to put these tips into action, and they’ll be inspiring their team rather than alienating them.