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The True Cost of Unrealized Human Potential

Unrealized potential is costing your organization more than you realize. Learn how a focus on maximizing individual potential through root thinking can lead to dramatic improvements in productivity, motivation, innovation, engagement, and more.

Being our best during a global pandemic has been anything but easy.

Working from home, interacting via video, and worrying about our health and the economy has made it difficult for anyone to feel like they’re achieving anything close to their full potential.

Even prior to the pandemic, activating human potential has been an ever-present challenge for forward thinking organizations. However, the notable toll on productivity seen over the past year has made finding a solution particularly urgent – and put a spotlight on the importance of cultivating the right mindset.

Measuring Unrealized Potential In Dollars and Cents

A workforce full of employees whose potential has been activated is easy to spot.  People who use their full potential fearlessly contribute and consider new ideas. They see and confidently explore opportunities. They embrace change, welcome new connections, and easily absorb information. They get more done and patiently overcome challenges. They get rewarded for their persistence and accomplishments. They maintain well-being, inner peace, and mindful presence. They have a natural magnetism that attracts people and opportunities.

Conversely, unrealized potential in the workplace may not be as easy to spot. But make no mistake, it can be extremely costly.

Take, for example, the cost of disengaged workers. 

According to a May/June 2020 survey of over 8,000 people across all 50 states, work engagement at the start of the pandemic had fallen 16%. Those findings were again replicated almost a year later in a subsequent survey of over 500 people.1 

Prior to this study, a Gallup poll found that, on average, 17.2 percent of an organization’s workforce were already actively disengaged. What does that mean? The same survey defines an actively disengaged worker as a person who is “unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.”2

What does that mean for you? Likely, a significant percentage of your hires that not only dislike their jobs, but aren’t afraid to show it in their speech and actions. These are workers who, at this point, are doing just enough to avoid being fired  or drawing unwanted attention to themselves or their office, but aren’t likely to go above and beyond their primary responsibilities.3

Make no mistake – that malaise is a slow leak to profitability. According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability. Translated into real figures, that’s 34% of a disengaged employee’s annual salary lost to unproductivity – which means a hire who makes $60,000 a year could cost their company $20,400 a year! 4

“Ok, I get it – the cost of a disengaged workforce (“unrealized potential”), is tremendous. How do I address it?” 

Simple – look for ways to reduce the amount of actively disengaged employees in your workforce. A few ways to accomplish that are:

  1. Talking openly to your employees about their future. Statistics show employees overwhelmingly want to have career conversations with their boss – even though the practice is rare.
  2. Building a culture of learning. One of the greatest causes of a disengaged workforce (even in pandemic times) is a lack of career development. Building a culture of learning at your company ensures your people can grow at your organization.
  3. Working hard to develop great managers. Managers have a tremendous impact on their employees’ experience at your company. Build a robust manager development program to ensure your employees have great bosses.
  4. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion. If an employee feels unwelcome for any reason, it will soon show in their performance. Any and every organization should prioritize building a diverse and inclusive organization at all levels.

There’s another, very powerful method of activating potential that many organizations often overlook because of a lack of the right tools. This method involves empowering employees to address their own hidden mental blocks.

Maximizing Profitability By Speaking To Your Employee’s “Inner Playbook”

All of us harbor unproductive thinking.

According to cognitive-behavioral science, most of our decisions in life are not completely logical, but rather, rooted in something called “emotional reasoning”.  Emotional reasoning is defined as the process where we create “emotional truths” – ideas based on our deep feelings about something – and act on them as though they were indisputable facts.

The thinking patterns that precede your beliefs, feelings, behavior, and outcomes do not stand on their own – they’re mediated by internal mental processes. These internal mental processes, which we refer to as Root Source Thinking, use data from our intrinsic and extrinsic experiences to create the foundation for how we see the world, think about the world, and ultimately behave in the world.

Herein lays the key to real, lasting improvement. 

If even the most disengaged employee is allowed the resources and training to adjust their root source thoughts when it comes to their performance/skillset, they could quickly unlock their true potential.

Additionally, the right professional development tool – an internal coaching program based in root thinking that works for all levels in an organization – can potentially address an employee’s need for guidance, better management, and building a culture of learning and inclusion. 

The key is to look for a coaching system that allows employees to:

Objectively understanding the way they think about their roles. Change starts with self-awareness. Using a quantitative diagnostic, employers can help their workers objectively measure their performance and establish a baseline to see progress. Thus, employees who are willing to make behavioral changes can now have the knowledge they need to continue improving in any area they choose.

Feel accountable for their performance. This second step is key to creating and maintaining new, more productive thinking patterns. Using cognitive-behavioral techniques, new thinking patterns can be developed by writing down, visualizing, saying, and conscientiously applying the new thoughts. Eventually, these practiced new thoughts create stronger, default neural pathways so they become the default thinking patterns and take the place of the old, undesirable ones.

These new thinking patterns or thought shifts can be developed on one’s own, with a personal coach, or with an e-coaching system.  With any behavioral change process, it is humanly hard to stick to it without some outside encouragement and support. A professional development tool that encourages an accountability system, partner, or community can use positive peer pressure to help keep employees motivated and moving forward.

Benefit from ongoing monitoring and support. As an employee’s potential is realized, they’ll begin to feel less stressed, more confident, and achieve more satisfying results – and a quantitative checkpoint will let them fully measure and appreciate their success.  Neural pathways are just like muscles: You must use them, so you don’t lose them! Thus, ongoing practice, support, and monitoring – preferably in the form of an accountability system, coach, or community – can be a critical part to keep their potential activated.

Harnessing the power of root thinking for change 

Could your organization use a diagnostic-based system for unlocking human potential?

You may want to start your search with Think-XTM.

Using Think-X Discover, a patented, validated, and EEOC-compliant diagnostic, the Think-X system allows participants to improve their performance with a personalized report and perfectly tailored, technology-assisted coaching program. Users can work independently, in a small group, or with a Think-X Certified Coach.

There are also options for ongoing self-development support. Using videos, articles, interactive discussions, and virtual events, Think Xchange provides on-demand support throughout everyone’s self-development journey.

Here’s what some proponents of Think-X had to say:

“It’s a win/win in each column: Diagnostic tools combined with great coaching for someone looking to improve.”
– Lew Walker, SPHR, Principal, KL HR advisors


“Think-X gives everyone a systematic way to level up their thinking to enable more productive behavior and results.”​
– Beth Davis​, Founder, The Llewellin Groups, LLC


“I now believe that people can change from any state…Think-X helps because it gives a viewpoint of definable performance drivers to set goals to.  These are the keys to get from where you are to where you want to be. Most people never get the tools to make change happen.​”
– Jim E., Zebra Technologies

To learn more about Think-X’s professional development tools, click here.


  1. Gino, F. (21, March 21). During Covid-19, Why Are Workers So Disengaged? Blame the Boss. Wall Street Journal.,feel%20disengaged%20from%20their%20jobs.&text=In%20a%20May%2DJune%202020,the%20start%20of%20the%20pandemic
  2. Petrone, P. (2017, March 14). How To Calculate The Cost Of Employee Disengagement. LinkedIn Learning Blog.
  3. Borysenko, K. (2019, May 2nd). How Much Are Your Disengaged Employees Costing You. Forbes.
  4. Petrone, P. (2017, March 14). How To Calculate The Cost Of Employee Disengagement. LinkedIn Learning Blog.