The Disengagement Gap


In many of the HRM NOW! blogs, I have talked about various gaps.

We have the pay equity gap, the PPE gender gap, and now we have a new gap for HR professionals to ponder – the disengagement gap.

But before we get to that, let’s discuss pondering.

Pondering is something more HR professionals should do. HR is good at strategizing, executing and implementing, but pondering is something to add to the HR toolbox.

To ponder is to weigh in with the mind, think about and reflect on, and with this disengagement gap, HR may need to ponder the causes. There seems to be some illogical human behaviour in the disengagement gap, and this is something HR should definitely ponder.

What is the disengagement gap and why is it happening?

An article on HRD calls the disengagement gap ‘a complacency conundrum’:

This DG or the complacency conundrum seems to be incessant in modern day workplaces. A recent North America survey showed the following:

  • 70% of employees are disengaged
  • Only 35 % are planning to leave their organization

This is a strange workplace behaviour. Employees are not happy with their work but are unwilling to change jobs.

This is especially strange when North America has some of the lowest unemployment rates in years. Low unemployment rates should make it easier for employees to leave jobs they do not like.  However, this was not happening in 2018, where 74% of employees were willing to leave their jobs, but in 2019, only 35% are.  Why the drastic drop?

HR professionals must consider why the change in employee’s attitudes. It’s not because employees love their jobs, because most do not.  All HR departments should begin a quest to understand how to engage their employees on a personal level. HR departments that start to ponder and develop some solutions to resolve this disengagement gap will see great performance benefits.

Discussion Questions

Improve your skills as a new HR professional by clicking on Dr. Natalie Baumgartner’s website. Pick one of her posts to read and review, and then ask yourself how an HR department could start to implement some of her ideas about employee engagement.

Does It Work in the Real World?


Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock

In our training and development studies we spend a lot of time discussing the need for proper measurement and evaluation of employee learning or training programs. While these discussions may be theoretical in nature, it is critical to find resources and supports that provide us with practical strategies to be applied in the ‘real world’ that exists beyond the classroom.

The American-based Association for Talent Development (ATD) is one of the many resources used by learning and training professionals around the globe. Recently, ATD posted some very practical advice on how organizations can use data analytics effectively to track, monitor, and evaluate the success of employee learning, training, and development programs.

Click here to read Part 1 on how to use L&D data effectively.

Click here to read Part 2 on how to use L&D data effectively.

As noted in both articles, the methodology for determining what types of learning or training data should be collected and used for evaluation purposes is fairly simple. It follows the basic practice of asking the 5W questions (Who? What? Where? When? Why?) from the beginning of the planning process for collecting, monitoring, and evaluating data in order to ensure the effectiveness of learning and development programs. In fact, both articles suggest using the 5W framework in order to perform a data-based needs analysis.

As we have learned elsewhere in our training and development studies, the needs analysis process is one of the critical first steps that must be taken when applying the structure of the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) model. It is both comforting and encouraging to note that these theoretical tools do make the transition into the practical application of processes that evaluate learning and training programs. When used effectively, they also provide the path to organizational outcomes that drive and thrive on data-based decision making.

Keep your textbooks, the need for data-based evaluation is real.


Discussion Questions:

  1. How does your current workplace keep track of employee learning and development?
  2. How would you apply the needs analysis process to training-related data collection for your current workplace?
  3. As an employee, how do you know what types of training or learning programs you are required to achieve? Who is responsible for keeping track of your professional learning plans?
  4. How can an organization’s Human Resource Management System (HRMS) be used to track and measure organizational learning and development programs? What types of employee learning and training data do you think should be collected through the HRMS?

Training Must Continue

Ekkachai / Shutterstock

The need for work-related training and re-training is real.

This need is heightened for those who serve and protect the public, specifically, the police. The published results of the inquest by a coroner’s jury into police reactions to mental health crises, highlight the need for a different kind of training in order to protect all members of the public.

Click here to read the article.

To put our training and development studies into practice, the results of the inquest stand as a classic needs analysis. It provides organizational, task and person analyses and recommendations to change the outcomes of existing practices through new skills and organizational training.

In the absence of any other methodologies, the responses by the police in crisis situations are learned. The police, as a unit, have been trained to apply a certain set of protocols in any given situation. This is understandable given the life threatening circumstances the police deal with each and every day. Their job is to protect us, the public, from harm.

Individual police officers also need to protect themselves from harm. When the risk of harm is real, when the threat to life is real, police are trained to react in a certain way. As noted in the information from the coroner’s jury, the ‘use of force’ model is the trained reaction an individual police officer has learned to use in a crisis situation.

When dealing with mental health issues, the modes and methods of handling crises have a different type of challenge. The threat to life and public safety may be the same. When the person ‘causing’ the risk and the threat is mentally ill, however, the trained response through the ‘use of force, too often ends with tragic results.

In order to provide a different response, an individual police officer must be equipped with the right tools. These tools come from a collective and organizational commitment to train the workforce with new skills and approaches to save lives and protect the public. These approaches include increasing an understanding of mental health issues, the impact of the illness on individuals and training on de-escalation techniques in conflict situations in order to reduce the risk of harm to everyone involved.

This is not an easy task. To be successful, we all need to increase our understanding and support for individuals coping with mental health issues and for those who serve and protect us.

The time for learning to change has begun, and must continue, in order to produce different outcomes for the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is de-escalation training? How does it differ from ‘use of force’ as a conflict resolution tool?
  2. How could you include mental health training in your current workplace? What type of training would you recommend?


What Do You Need to Succeed?


Needs Assessment: A Review

An organization’s training and development program is only as good as its needs assessment.

Here is a great comprehensive review of the needs assessment process and how important it is to successful employee training. It is so important to have successful employee training outcomes.

Karla Gutierrez from Shift–Disruptive Elearning sums up what can go wrong when an organization does not do a proper needs assessment.

Click here to read a summary

We teach:

  • the right people the wrong things
  • the right things to the wrong people
  • the right skills the wrong way

The best way to avoid the above is an upfront needs assessment. All organizations and HR departments usually need a refresher on a proper needs assessment to avoid the negative outcomes of not doing one.

Click here to see a PowerPoint overview of a proper needs assessment.

Discussion Questions

  1. After reviewing the eight steps of a needs assessment process, pick two that you feel are easy to accomplish and pick two that you feel are harder to accomplish. Once chosen explain your reasoning and defend your arguments with examples.
  2. Explain why training and development need assessments are important and why so many organizations fail to conduct proper ones.

Needs Analysis: Keep it Simple

Very often, organizations get caught up in over complicating and over analyzing what employees need or want.  As with most things, the more complicated a process is, the more opportunity for misunderstanding, miscommunication, and missing the mark.

Source: Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock
Source: Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock

This is definitely the case with needs analysis related to employee learning.  We hear how important it is to drill down into the core of an organizational psyche so that we can prepare and respond to multiple employee challenges through various analytical methodologies.  It does not have to be so complex.

Click here to read the article.

In this article, there are three simple questions to ask employees about their work life, including the very powerful but simple question, ‘What do you want to learn this year?’ . Simple questions can provide an abundance of responses.  The answers to simple questions will give us a wealth of material that we, as HR Professionals, can work with in order to provide appropriate learning tools to fit what employees tell us they need.

Asking questions should be the easiest part to creating understanding about what employees need.  Making sure we respond to what employees tell us they need is where the real challenge lies.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you respond to each of the three questions from this article in your current (or past) work environment?
  2. What types of responses from these three questions would indicate employee satisfaction?
  3. What types of responses from these three questions would indicate employee dissatisfaction?
  4. What tools would you use in the workplace to ask employees these three questions?
  5. What is the biggest risk to an employer when employees answer these three simple questions?