So, if each of our brains constantly scans the environment for any perceived threats, why is an engaged employee less of a safety risk than a disengaged employee?
Quite simply, engaged employees are more likely to feel safe in their work environment. They are also less likely to have work-related accidents. Some of this is because they are more easily able to identify the safety threats in their environment. Additionally, their perception of such threats is more accurate.
Disengaged employees, however, are less likely to feel safe in their work environment. The threat circuits of their brains are on constant alert for a wide array of possible reasons: anxiety from work related issues or conditions, threatening leadership or leadership styles, sadness, despair, anger, fear of failure or poor performance. Disengaged employees are easily distracted, are more difficult to motivate, have lower levels of attention to detail,and find it more difficult to make good decisions or to problem solve independently.
With a perceived threat in the environment, the brain shuts down the ability to work well. Thinking clearly becomes a problem because enormous amounts of brain resources are diverted to protection. Work naturally requires a lot of effort and energy. When the brian’s resources are directed elsewhere, judgement errors occur, something that can easily which affect personal safety. Disengaged employees are more likely to have work related accidents. Because their work environments seem to be fraught with dangers, they are unable to identify the real impending threats.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ENGAGEMENT AND RECRUITMENT
There is another dimension to employee engagement, and that is hiring the right person for the right work. Disengagement is the result of a poor hiring process and comes at an enormous cost to an organisation.
As far back as 1997, Iverson & Erwin, and more recently by Nahrgang, Morgeson and Hofmann, research on safety at work suggests that people who are not a good fit for their work environment are at greater risk of injury. It is now possible to use the latest in brain science research to select candidates for positions based on preferences for behavioural and working styles. This allows savvy leaders to cultivate engaged employees from the moment they step into the organisation.
Imagine outlining to a potential candidate what type of work they need to love to do in order to feel successful in their work. Imagine a candidate being employed for what they love to do? And imagine a safer work environment for everyone.