By now many of us have read the Gallup survey that shows how actively disengaged employees cost the United States an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity.

The Dale Carnegie Training and MSW Research also discovered through a survey of 1,500 employees that there are three key drivers of employee engagement. The first one is their relationship with their supervisor, number two is belief in senior management, and number three is pride in working for the company.

When you have employees who come from an environment of daily instability (and it has been that way their entire life), decisions are usually made in light of relationships. As an employer, you already know that attendance, tardiness, transportation, and childcare tend to be the biggest issues you experience.

First and foremost, if I live in daily instability, I will take care of my immediate family and those who take care of me. In my world of stability, on the other hand, I call “Triple A” when the car breaks down. When I live in daily instability and don’t have an AAA policy, I call Uncle Ray.

Now if Uncle Ray needs childcare tomorrow, I probably will take care of those children and not go to work. In most cases, after all, it’s a job, not a career, and I can find another job just like I found this one. In the environment of daily instability, decisions are made quickly and for the day. Making decisions for tomorrow is generally not in the picture as I am busy just meeting needs for today—and living in “the tyranny of the moment,” as described further in Workplace Stability.

The primary energy that motivates our employees from daily instability—the entry-level and low-wage workers—is relationships. It’s how people make decisions about what they will and will not do for you. If I like you, I will work for you. If I don’t like you, I won’t work for you, and I’ll tell my co-worker friends to act the same way. As a supervisor, you are the person who can make a difference in the success of that employee.

When you take the time to cultivate relationships, take the time to learn about your employees’ lives, and take the time to communicate employee value, you are creating relationships of mutual respect that in the end motivate entry-level, low-wage workers to become more productive employees. It’s a win/win—for them and for the company.

Ruth Weirich has provided insight into the overall corporate strategies of divisions and companies for 30 years. She received her M.B.A. from Colorado State and her B.A. in Business Administration from Goshen College. By maximizing an organization’s operating performance and achieving its financial goals, Ruth has held responsibilities ranging from communicating with and leading all stakeholders to preparing operating budgets to overseeing a strategic plan. Ruth is an active listener, a critical thinker, and has quick judgment and decision making skills. Click to learn more about Ruth Weirich.