Disengaged employees cost UK economy billions

Disengaged employeeAlmost half of UK employees have admitted to not going above and beyond at work because they think that they won’t be acknowledged (46 per cent) or rewarded (47 per cent).

Just as alarmingly for businesses, less than one in ten (7 per cent) employees say they are working to their full potential, and more than a quarter of workers (27 per cent) rate their current level of productivity as five or below (on a scale of 1-10) according to research from Bupa.


The research, which surveyed 5,000 workers and is combined with economic analysis from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), shows that employer’s failure to unlock employees’ ‘discretionary effort’ is costing UK businesses billions. In fact, according to the research a lack of motivation and sub-optimal health cut a potential £6 billion from the economy in 2012, which is equivalent to 0.4 per cent of GDP.

This lack of motivation is causing UK employees to work below peak productivity and is holding back potential growth for British businesses. Key findings include:

  • Nearly half of Britain’s employees hold back effort at work, believing that extra effort will not be recognised or rewarded
  • One in four staff admit they don’t want to win new business as it will only mean more work for them
  • Over a third of teams are experiencing extra stress and pressure due to staff ill health and absences


Mon-FriDemotivated and disengaged staff can have a massive impact on a business’ performance and employee productivity levels. And if businesses want to grow and be successful then they need to find ways to tap into and harness their employees’ discretionary effort. This has to be done through a culture of recognition and reward.

However the good news is that it is possible to significantly improve your business’ performance and employee productivity levels by making just a few small changes within your business.

  • Start by saying thank you. It’s the simplest things that often mean the most and can have a significant impact on employee productivity and motivation.
  • Get the leadership team involved. It will encourage managers to implement a recognition programme if their managers are continually reminding people to use the programme and announcing the recipients of awards.
  • Give managers flexibility to adapt the award to suit the preferences of the employee or team that they are recognising. An unsuitable reward will not motivate anyone.
  • Look for success stories. Sometimes people are shy about their achievements so be proactive in looking for them. You can also use these success stories to promote the scheme and create a buzz around it.
  • Encourage awards for less visible employees such as those who provide back-up roles to the sales team or other customer facing staff.
  • Link the goals of your recognition programme to the organisation’s goals. This will enable you to reinforce the values and behaviours that are important to your business.
  • Set clear criteria for awards and communicate it. This will make your scheme fair and avoid any complaints about favouritism.
  • Allow individual employees and teams to be recognised. Employees can gain as much motivation and pride from being part of a successful team as they can from individual recognition.


One of the most common misconceptions about recognition programmes are they don’t have a proven return on investment, but it simply isn’t true as many professional surveys will tell you. Recognition schemes make a quantifiable impact on key business metrics as well as raising employees’ self-esteem, reducing absence due to sickness, contributing to lower stress-levels in employees and lifting staff spirits.


See how these large organisations run their recognition schemes

Recognition Video Case Studies

Aviva, Virgin Media and Siemens recognition videos 



John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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