Why Give a Damn:
71% percent of workers are “actively disengaged” from their work. Companies are investing, but performance isn’t necessarily improving. Which begs the question – what’s wrong?
The author of this post, Wendy Lea, is CEO of Get Satisfaction, a leading customer engagement platform. Wendy serves as an angel investor, strategic advisor, and board member for a long list of startup companies. She has been recognized as a Top 100 Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley.
I was recently invited to participate in a customer advisory board with TriNet, an HR solutions provider that is very much in the “people business.” Surrounded by CEOs from a dozen different companies, the conversation around workforce engagement (maybe better labeled people engagement) was front and center. Businesses are actively trying to engineer work experiences and develop managers to stimulate performance and productivity – the golden levers to increasing revenue.
A recent Gallup survey showed that 71% percent of workers are “not engaged”
Despite these efforts, a recent Gallup survey showed that 71% percent of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work. Ouch. Companies are investing, but performance isn’t necessarily improving. Which begs the question – what’s wrong?
It’s a Whole New Ballgame
From a business perspective, the entire landscape is evolving – we’re not playing the same game anymore. The hard boundaries that used to exist around work, no longer do. Access and distribution of information has shattered traditional business structures, blurring the lines with social tools, mobile devices, low cost connectivity and overall remote work patterns. This evolution is profoundly changing not only the way people work, but their expectations – personally and professionally.
If you (the employee) want me (the business) to really “get” you, then you need to know who you are and what you want – and be able to articulate that.
Listening to CEOs around the table brainstorm strategies to overcome engagement barriers, I began to fear that we’ve created an inflated emphasis on work culture. Businesses are expected not only to provide stability and jobs, but also to foster cultures that spur creativity, innovation and fulfillment, oftentimes in the form of over-the-top perks. We’re developing a cycle where no matter what you offer in terms company culture, we’re still not getting optimized commitment or engagement from employees in return.
I have to ask: What if it’s impossible for businesses to solve the equation of workforce engagement?
The Individual vs. Collective
To really get to the core of it, it’s time to re-evaluate the role of the organization versus employee performance. In the past, businesses have provided an important structure designed to corral employees with a herd mentality. However, today we’re deep in an age of individualism – the herd mentality no longer exists. It’s time for leaders (and businesses) to ask themselves:
How can you create a collective experience while supporting individual needs?
What if it’s impossible for businesses to solve the equation of
Companies need to shift towards truly understanding individuals if they want to fully engage them as employees (I’ll deep dive into this more in the subsequent blogs in this series). That requires an investment in listening, assessing, guiding … more so than formal management and processes; helping individuals cultivate and harvest input to fuel the big picture for themselves and then aligning that with the company’s vision.
Once we reframe the question in this context, the responsibility for workforce engagement shifts from being solely on the shoulders of the business, to a shared responsibility between the company and the individual.
How Does Individual Responsibility Factor into the Equation?
The flip side is that personal responsibility takes on a more prominent role as part of the balance in this new context. A shift in accountability occurs; employees need to shoulder some of the responsibility for their own engagement.
What does “individual responsibility” actually look like?
If you (the employee) want me (the business) to really “get” you, then you need to know who you are and what you want – and be able to articulate that. Once we’re on the same page, we can collaboratively create a baseline to work from. Without a true partnership between the collective and the individual, businesses will continue to miss the mark of workforce engagement.
The next (and dauntingly necessary) question to ask is: what does “individual responsibility” actually look like? What’s the best way for employees to articulate and communicate what’s important to them?