These days, some organizations or recruiters are rambling about how best to engage or retain employees. However, is it merely a one-sided matter?
Having been in HRD since the 1980s, I have always found that developing people serves an important function - helping employees grow, and helping organizations become more competitive. The HRD function is synergistic with both employers and employees, and bring together vision, strategies, tactics, and actions, so that everyone is walking the same path towards the same goals.
Fast forward to today, in the world of social media and mobile apps, and suddenly, a minority of the young employees seem to be more disengaged from their work and their employers, and seem to be more demanding of attention and independence, while also exhibiting less of the tough substance the older workers have shown consistently through the past decades.
Some of these younger workers have also shown less respect for the traditional hierarchy and the system of "elders".
Having talent is one thing, but having a decent respect for another human being is mandatory for any age, and any generation. Humility is the hallmark of a person who is capable of learning, capable of relating well to others, and capable of leading people rather than patronizing or bossing others.
Therefore, when there is a disengaged employee in your team, the question you should first ask as a leader is not if you have failed this employee, but to consider the team as a whole.
What kind of an employee is this? What kind of REAL talent or expertise does this person bring to the table, since no one is indispensable? What kind of influence does this person impart to the team - positive or negative? If a perpetually arrogant, ruthless, aggressive, whining, malingering person of average skills and no special talents is demoralizing your team as a whole, there is no reason you should keep this person, much less feel guilty or insecure if you should have done more. The team, and the greater organization, should be considered above any one person.
Disengaged employees may just be misfits in an organization. Some may go on to find better careers and develop well in environments that fit them better. There are also, sadly, those who are perpetual whiners who will waste their lives away. You can't please everybody, and the greater community and its interests should always be served more than any individual.