Most workers are just phoning it in, disengaged from their jobs and their work — andthe toll that takes on businesses’ bottom lines is huge. But whentrying to woo their employees into a sense of commitment, companiesare overlooking a vital element in the picture: that of theindividual employee.

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Related: Your job could be making you ill

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That’s according to the latest report, “DNA of Engagement: How Organizations CanFoster Employee Ownership of Engagement,” from The EngagementInstitute, a joint venture of The Conference Board, DeloitteConsulting LLP, Sirota-Mercer, ROI Institute and The CultureWorks.

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Research puts the number of employees actually engaged withtheir work at no more than a third, and pegs the loss, in the U.S.alone, to companies from employee disengagement at a whopping $450–550billion annually.

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The report examines how motivations, incentives, expectationsand personalities drive employees at every level to fully engagewith their jobs, or not.

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Using insights from two surveys — one of human capitalexecutives and another of managers and employees — as well as from24 focus groups and case studies of five exemplar companies, thereport explores ways that employees can be converted from activelydisengaged or neutral to engaged with their work.

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Among the findings are the assertion that engagement does notcome from above. While top leadership and organizational cultureare indispensable, the report says, encouraging personal agency andownership is an underutilized engagement lever.

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Related: Employee retention depends on employeeexperience

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In addition, most employees are committed to takingresponsibility for their own engagement, knowing the benefits ofengagement on themselves, their teams, and the organization.

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In fact, the study finds more than 95 percent of those surveyedare aware when they begin feeling disengaged. Personal andorganizational factors both affect the extent to which employeestake responsibility for their own engagement, while high-trustrelationships, well-designed jobs and a compelling mission can allspur them to jump in.

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Specific steps that can be taken by both employees to reengageand employers to encourage them to do so include employees modelinga positive attitude and communicating their own career needs, andemployers connecting employees’ work to the mission of theorganization and recognizing employee contributions.

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One issue that needs to be confronted, the study finds, is that“[f]rontline managers diverge substantially from human capitalexecutives in their understanding of what — and who — drivesengagement.”

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HC leaders are more devoted to “a heavily top-down model”relying on managers, while managers themselves are more consciousof the significance of individual initiative. Closing the gapbetween the two perceptions is critical, and “will require a moreholistic, systemic approach that identifies individual levers ofengagement beyond the manager-employee relationship.”

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