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Low Employee Engagement: Causes, Impacts, Tips

We’ll discuss the importance of employee engagement, how to identify signs of low employee engagement and strategies to boost engagement.


By ActivTrak

4 wooden blocks showing different emotions to represent levels of high or low employee engagement.

In today’s highly competitive business landscape, employee engagement is a critical factor in organizational success. Engaged employees are more productive and more likely to stay in their jobs for longer periods. On the other hand, low employee engagement can halt a company’s growth and profitability in its tracks.

Below, we’ll discuss the importance of employee engagement, how to identify signs of low engagement and strategies to boost engagement.

What is low employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a measure of the passion employees feel about their jobs, commitment to the organization’s objectives and willingness to go the extra mile to contribute to the company’s success. But it doesn’t come just from employees’ good natures. Companies create employee engagement by making workers feel valued, supported and empowered to reach their full potential. 

Engagement goes beyond job satisfaction. It includes a sense of purpose and fulfillment in work. Engaged employees are more likely to find meaning in what they do and feel a sense of accomplishment when they make a positive impact on the organization and its stakeholders.

Low engagement is the opposite of this. Disengaged employees may feel their work is boring or pointless. They may feel as if they can’t complete tasks to their satisfaction or they don’t have ownership over their work. They may also feel they don’t contribute to the overall success of the company or their career track is going nowhere. 

Causes of low employee engagement

There are several factors that contribute to low employee engagement. Sometimes employees suffer from burnout due to personal issues like physical,mental health or relationship issues. In those situations, employers can offer support in a few ways.

Often, low employee engagement stems from organizational issues, such as:

  • No clear understanding of goals or vision
  • Micromanaging
  • Lack of reward or meaningful advancement
  • No connection to the broader organization
  • Excessive workloads or non-stop deadlines
  • Limited resources and tools
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Poor leadership

We dive into how to address these issues further below.

Signs of low employee engagement

Disengagement comes in varying levels, and while fully disengaged employees are relatively easy to spot, there are subtle signs employees show as they initially become disengaged. Keep an eye out for these signs to address the issue before it becomes a major problem. 

Decreased productivity

One of the most obvious signs of low employee engagement is a decline in productivity levels. Disengaged employees are less motivated, and their lack of commitment leads to reduced efficiency and performance. This could be an issue with a single employee and lead to a domino effect with other employees. If one link in the chain isn’t completing their tasks, others may be quickly impacted. 

High turnover rates

Another telltale sign of low engagement is people leaving the company at high rates. When employees are disengaged, they’re more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. High employee turnover can be extremely costly for companies, impacting financial resources as well as the overall work environment. It also acts as a red flag for future possible employees, who will see the turnover as a sign they probably won’t want to work there, either. 


Disengaged employees may call out more often than engaged employees. While even engaged employees may go through health issues that require days off work, disengaged employees may call out because they’re bored, depressed or even dread coming to work. Some of the issues that lead to poor employee engagement also lead to mental health issues and stress for employees, including burnout. If you notice an uptick in sick days or even employees simply not showing up for work, it’s worth checking in to find out why. 

Poor employee morale

Low employee engagement often leads to poor employee morale. Disengaged employees may exhibit negative attitudes and a lack of enthusiasm, which can quickly spread. They may skip social or team-building activities or only provide negative feedback on projects. This decline in morale can further contribute to decreased productivity and a toxic work environment. 

The impact of low employee engagement on business

The benefits of employee engagement are often pretty clear. Recent research shows a strong correlation between employee engagement and organizational performance. Companies with highly engaged workers tend to outperform their competitors when it comes to revenue growth and profitability. Conversely, low engagement can harm productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction and employee retention. 

Less engaged employees may not feel a sense of ownership or responsibility toward the organization’s goals, which can result in missed opportunities for growth and improvement. Not to mention — missed deadlines. Disinterested, unmotivated and disconnected employees are less likely to go above and beyond to help the company succeed. 

Low engagement also impacts customer satisfaction scores. Excellent customer service depends on employee engagement because engaged employees are more likely to provide better service and care about the organization’s reputation. Disengaged employees are less likely to prioritize customer needs, leading to a decline in customer loyalty and retention. 

Employee retention is another area affected by low engagement. When employees are dissatisfied or burned out, they’re more likely to look for work elsewhere. This results in a higher turnover rate, which can be costly for organizations in terms of recruiting, training and lost knowledge and expertise. 

8 tips to address low employee engagement

Many organizations can move closer to success if they just improve engagement levels. Fortunately, there are many strategies organizations can use to drive employee engagement and create a positive work environment. 

1. Improve communication within the organization

Open and transparent communication is the building block of employee engagement. Organizations must provide channels for employees to communicate with each other and for the organization to communicate ideas and values to them. Regular communication can help employees feel valued and included, enhancing their sense of belonging and commitment to the organization. 

2. Recognize and reward employee achievements

Recognition and rewards can significantly impact employee engagement levels. Acknowledging and appreciating employee contributions not only boosts morale but can foster a culture of appreciation and recognition. Whether through public recognition, incentives or career advancement opportunities, organizations should celebrate and reward employee achievements. 

3. Foster a positive work environment

Organizations should strive to create a workplace culture promoting collaboration, respect and work-life balance. Encouraging a healthy work environment that values employee well-being helps foster engagement and enhance overall job satisfaction. This can include training managers and team members on how to work to their strengths and creating strong policies around workplace collaboration. 

4. Model behavior from the top down

It’s no secret employees look to their team leader for cues on how to behave. If leadership isn’t practicing what they preach when it comes to engagement, work-life balance or personal health, employees probably won’t do it, either. Make sure managers — especially your executive and leadership teams — aren’t showing employees the only way to get ahead is to burn out. 

5. Train and develop employees

Investing in employee training and development programs is an effective way to boost engagement. When employees have opportunities for professional growth and to develop skills, they not only improve their performance but can see that the organization values their long-term success. 

6. Engage in team-building activities

Human beings aren’t robots, and we often forget that we need more than just work in our day-to-day to build successful teams. Employees also need to trust each other and be able to work together. Regular team-building activities, including social time and professional development time,  foster good relationships between employees. 

7. Implement employee wellness programs

A major way to drive higher levels of employee engagement is to implement employee wellness programs. Promoting physical, mental and emotional health positively impacts employee engagement and productivity. This  includes initiatives such as stress management workshops, flexible work schedules and access to wellness resources. 

8. Gather and address employee feedback

To improve engagement, you need to understand your employees’ experiences. Gathering feedback from employees and implementing changes based on that feedback can go miles to show employees they’re valued. Whether it’s an anonymous survey or one-on-one meetings with managers, give employees the opportunity to express how work is going for them. You may find that many regular complainers just want to feel listened to, while other employees have valid ideas for change that can actually improve your bottom line. 

Identify, prevent and address low employee engagement with ActivTrak

Increasing employee engagement is one of the keys to unleashing the full potential of your workforce. But you have to be able to identify low engagement levels and address them with real data. ActivTrak’s employee engagement and experience software provides real insight into engagement and burnout risk to help ensure your employees feel valued, motivated and committed. 

Get a demo today and see how ActivTrak can help you proactively address low engagement by bringing early indicators to light. 

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