Staff engagement critical for service brands

Recently I was at a conference where the speaker introduced a term pertaining to staff engagement that was new to me (as is many things in life). But unlike a lot of things one gets exposed to there was real cut through in the description used. It hit me between the eyes in terms of how passive and accepting many organisations become in terms of accepting poor levels of staff engagement.

The term used to describe dis-engaged staff was this: ‘Quit But Stay’. Yes, it is suggesting that organisations have staff that have mentally and emotionally quit, but they keep turning up every day simply for the pay check that it provides at the end of the week.

Nothing new here you may be thinking, and you are right. However, the crude bluntness of the expression of having staff who have Quit But Stayed, puts the concept of staff engagement well in truly in the spot light. It surely challenges the sensibilities of organisations to take some action to drive engagement, because the alternative feels almost insulting.

According to some 2011 research by Gallup, 23 million people in the U.S. are ‘actively disengaged’ from their work. They report that the result is millions of workers have resigned themselves to their jobs; they turn up and do their job at a basic level, but that’s all. It’s not so much what they do; it’s what they don’t do. In the US alone, they estimate the cost of this lost productivity exceeds $300 billion.

Such an outcome is particularly damaging for service brands where the customer experience is live, where a big factor in the quality of that experience is actually how front line staff perform. It has wider ramifications than having a worker going a little slower on the assembly line as customers personally feel the impact.

What we therefore suggest as a good starting point is to do a mental audit of your staff, assessing each against the question of have they ‘Quit But Stayed’. If at the end of the process you feel you have some strong candidates, then you have to ask yourself is the root cause the way their job is structured and managed, or is it the individual. Either way you have some serious work to do.

Peter Singline
Present and engaged!


  1. I heard this expression a number of years ago and it resonated so clearly. It’s a great description for employees who are so disengaged from the organization that they have quit everything about their job—the culture, the innovation, the teamwork—that is overlooked by leaders, yet are measured by the core tasks they are assigned. These employees can linger for years, creating a culture of disengagement that, over time, appears to reflect normal operations. In my experience, it’s usually caused by leadership who are also disconnected from those very same attributes (culture, innovation, teamwork) and demand/reward only results.

    Great post.

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