In recent research conducted by Leadership Management Australasia, nearly 4000 respondents in Australia and New Zealand were asked how they felt about their jobs. The survey revealed more than 60% of the workforce either hated their jobs or didn’t care about their work, as long as they got paid. It showed nearly half were considering looking for a new job while 62% either hated or were ambivalent about their work. (Source: APN).
What this shows are large numbers of employees who aren’t committed to their organisation or the work they do. They’re not engaged, in other words. The Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) defined employee engagement as a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values, plus a willingness to help out colleagues. And the interesting thing with engagement is that it is a discretionary activity, it cannot be required by an employer. It is highly desirable to have, but it cannot be forced. And therein lies the problem. Employers want employees who are committed, care about their work and will do their best so the organisation meets its goals. Employees want jobs that are meaningful, fulfilling and meet their needs.
All of which begs the question: what can employers do to create an environment that encourages engagement? And by the same token, what can ambivalent or care less individual employees do, to change their situation?
- have genuine corporate values that are well imbedded in the organisation and consistently evident in the behaviours of all leaders, all managers and all staff. Why? Some organisations have documented organisational values that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. They’re a sham, almost everyone in the organisation knows it and consequently, some of the behaviours and the culture within the workplace, turns people off.
- show ethical leadership and actively demonstrate it, with integrity, with consistency, with professionalism. Why? If an employer delivers on their promises and their actions meet employees’ expectations, employees trust the employer. Trustworthy actions reinforce employees’ sense of fair play and create a “positive ‘psychological contract’ – an unwritten mutual obligation – between employer and employee”. (CIDP, 2009). Retrieved 11/07/2011 from http://www.hrreview.co.uk/analysis/analysis-health-safety/employee-engagement.
- foster organisational citizenship, the tendency for people at work to help each other out and put in extra time and effort when required. Why? Employees who feel connected to others at work and have friends at work, are more likely to want to make a meaningful contribution to the organisation.
- communicate with employees in a timely way using various communication channels. It is the employees’ responsibility to access the information given.
- use human resources systems to enable HR practitioners or managers to have meaningful discussions with employees about their level of engagement with their role and the organisation. For this to occur, it requires high levels of trust between managers and their employees; and an organisational culture that provides a positive, supportive and enabling workplace. Why? For an organisation to be fully productive, it requires fully engaged, committed employees. If employees aren’t engaged, they need support to either be reengaged, leave their particular role or leave the organisation completely.
Individual employees can:
- work on their inner self. This requires understanding their interests, motivators, demotivators and strengths; their core values, passions, fears, insecurities and tolerations; their self-sabotaging habits, thought patterns, emotional intelligence and their personality type. Why? Self awareness and self understanding is critical for individuals who want to know themselves and discover the work and environments that enable them to be their very best.
- take personal responsibility for themselves and their situation. Why? An organisation can only do so much to make the environment conducive, supportive and attractive to employees. There may be limited opportunities to expand or enhance existing roles or create new ones. If, despite some changes, an employee is still unhappy, under-engaged or bored, they are responsible for the next step. They need to take control of their situation and make some decisions. If they stay in a role when they’ve mentally left the job or are unhappy in it, it will cause harm – eventually, their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health suffers.
In an ideal world, all workplaces would be values-led, ethical, vibrant, energized, productive and happy places, staffed only with keen, passionate and committed employees. Our reality may be very different. A number of workplaces today don’t reflect these ideals and neither do a number of employees.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The future can be different. It starts with every employer and every employee, everywhere, today. ©
Sue Dwan, Dwan & Associates
12 July 2011 ©