We’ve all worked with them at some point – the employees or coworkers who are chronically late for work but who are the first ones to head home at the end of the day.

When they’re on the job, they do the minimum that they can get by with without getting fired. Many label them as ‘lazy’ or ‘slackers’ and quickly write them off as a potential layoff candidate.

The problem with these labels is that they’re often wrong. At one time in their employment, these ‘slackers’ were just as hard-working and engaged as others in the company. Something has simply happened along the way that’s changed their attitude and made mediocrity acceptable in their eyes.

Is this reversible? Can you turn these ‘tired’ employees to enthused, engaged workers? Or should you let them go?

Below, I’ve outlined five different approaches you can take to re-engage employees, making them happier and more productive, which in turn will make your customers happier too.

Fail to plan = plan to fail

According to an Aberdeen Group report* published in 2015, companies that create a formal engagement plan have a 64% greater increase in employee engagement than companies that are unorganised in their approach.

Aberdeen also reports that ‘companies with dedicated employee engagement programs have 233% greater customer loyalty levels and experienced a 26% greater annual increase in revenue on average’.

Give them the bigger picture

Karen Burman and Joe Knight from the Wall Street Journal argue that sharing financial statements with employees gives them a sense of how their jobs contribute to the profitability of the company and that they are more likely to consider every dollar spent and every minute wasted as a result.

Burman and Knight give an example of a fast-food restaurant manager who took the time to explain to all his workers how to read statements, then posted a weekly profit sheet on the break-room wall. Bonuses were handed out in weeks that exceeded the company’s goals. This not only encouraged everyone to be more efficient and frugal, but it also made some of the employees take on an entrepreneurial spirit, as they looked for creative ways to save money and increase the profit margin.

‘They looked for creative ways to save money and increase the profit margin.’

Engage them socially

Turning the page back to the Aberdeen article, Moon gives us another interesting statistic to consider. His study found that companies who focus on ‘enterprise communication and collaboration’ had a 54.9% increase in employee engagement, compared to 43.9% of those that used methods like the sharing of financials.

Now, if you’re like me, you are scratching your head and wondering, ‘What in the world is enterprise communication and collaboration?’ This can be described as leveraging social media platforms to communicate and collaborate across all levels of a company. Moon claims that companies that are successful at integrating social media into internal communication boast that 77% of their employees can be rated as ‘highly engaged’.

‘Companies successful at integrating social media into internal communication boast that 77% of their employees can be rated as “highly engaged.”’

Turn the big data gaze inward

For those of you who love data mining, Daniel Newman at entrepreneur.com recommends taking a tool used to define customer tastes and habits, and turning it inward.

He suggests the same analytics used to find out the preferences and motivations of customers can be used to customise the workplace to better engage employees. The data can also be used as a measure of employee engagement and a talisman to point out those employees who are on the edge of tuning out.

Find common ground

It’s clear that the common denominators in achieving employee engagement are recognition and reward. People respond well to praise and positive reinforcement.

No matter what engagement plan your business decides to use, if it lacks a reward system to show employees that their full attention is appreciated, it will surely fail.

I can personally testify that when fully engaged work is consistently unrecognized, you begin to wonder if the extra effort is worth the energy spent to achieve it. You start to say to yourself: ‘Bob doesn’t work as hard as I do and he gets the same reward. Should I become like Bob?’

Make a plan to keep all of your employees from being a Bob.

*Michael Moon, ‘Technology-Enabled Employee Engagement: Top Five Features Your HCM System Should Have’.