How to Engage Disengaged Employees

Employee disengagement is a workplace epidemic. One study found that disengaged employees cost US organizations $450 billion...

May 5, 2021

Employee disengagement is a workplace epidemic. One study found that disengaged employees cost US organizations $450 billion to $550 billion each year due to lower productivity and lack of motivation. With 85% of employees feeling disengaged from their work, this issue cuts across industries, company sizes, and workplace cultures to impact millions of employees and thousands of employers.

But disengaged employees are not a lost cause. Many of these employees can be inspired and empowered if you take the right action as soon as you notice the issue.

Causes of Employee Disengagement

While every disengaged employee will have their own reasons for distancing themselves from their work, there are some common issues that lead to employee disengagement.

Lack of growth opportunities

Employees who feel that there is little room to grow will likely become disengaged, as they have less to strive for within the organization. These employees may begin searching for another job that allows them to grow.

Poor communication

When employees are constantly unsure about what’s being asked of them, told different things by different people, and left in the dark, they’ll start to feel deflated. Maintaining motivation in a confusing or uncertain environment is a major challenge for many employees, leading to disengagement.

Little or no recognition

As much as employees need constructive feedback to improve, they also need affirmation when they succeed. Those who don’t feel appreciated may detach themselves from their work, as they feel less of a reason to strive for greatness.

Not being heard

Employees with bright ideas or important needs will disengage if those ideas and needs go unrecognized. People need to feel that their voices are heard and that their contributions matter to stay engaged with their work. This factor is common among all disengaged employees, often paired with some of the above reasons for disengagement.

Signs an Employee is Disengaging

When employees become disengaged, often the first sign is a lower quality of work. The employee may begin to miss deadlines or submit work of a lower quality than usual. They might still show up to work on time and get basic tasks done, however, which makes employee disengagement harder to catch early on.

Another sign is a general lack of interest in improving or contributing to the team. This could manifest itself as withdrawal during meetings, not taking advantage of professional development opportunities, or not seeking out feedback on their work. 

When passionate or devoted employees seem to lose their spark, employee disengagement is usually the answer.

How You Can Re-engage Employees

Depending on why your employees have become disengaged, there are many ways to draw them back into their work.

Listen to your employees

This is a simple step that can create powerful change. Sitting down with disengaged employees and giving them your full attention will help you to understand what has led to their disengagement and what they need from you to resolve it. A fair number of employee engagement issues can be solved just by listening to your employees’ concerns and acting on them.

Create clear expectations and guidelines for advancement

Employees should know their exact role and responsibilities, and what skills they need to display to be promoted. While it’s not always possible to offer higher positions to excellent employees, if you are able to do so, you should make it clear what it takes to advance. Sit down with each employee and share this information one-on-one, ensuring that everyone understands what’s expected of them and how they can move up.

Recognize your team

One of the most powerful ways to re-engage disengaged employees is through employee recognition. 78% of employees in the US say that recognition motivates them to do their job, and 37% say it’s the most important method of support to receive from management. But employee recognition goes beyond an occasional “thank you.” For employees who are motivated by pay, offering cash bonuses can be a great motivator. Others prefer time off, being taken to lunch, or many types forms of recognition. 

The challenge with employee recognition is that it has to be continual -- recognizing someone once won’t be enough to keep them engaged. If you don’t want to create your own employee recognition system, you can use a platform like Assembly to integrate employee recognition into your organization without having to deal with the logistics of setting up and maintaining it on your own.

Final Thoughts

Retaining and supporting disengaged employees is critical to maximizing your company’s productivity and keeping your team happy. In many cases, disengaged employees are a sign of larger issues within the company, such as poor communication or lack of recognition. By solving these issues, you can keep your team motivated, passionate, and engaged in the long run.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

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Employee recognition guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. These one-time services start at $5,000. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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