Are you part of one of those institutions that are oh-so familiar with a lack of engagement from their employees? Do you also find yourself asking if it’s all worth it sometimes?
Rest assured you’re not the only one. According to Gallup’s 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace, 87% people are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. This translates into 1.2 billion disengaged workers around the globe.
And it’s a healthy behaviour to question whether what we do is still what we enjoy doing.
However, when it comes to business, lack of motivation has a direct impact on employees’ ability to adapt to a fast changing work environment, on their capacity to find creative solutions and prepare for forthcoming events. Lack of engagement impacts the overall team dynamics, it affects their productivity and capacity to care for each other. It also potentially increases misunderstandings, frustrations and conflicts. In short, unhappy employees lead to unserviced customers and unrewarded investors.
Who’s fault is that? We love pointing the finger at the bad guy responsible for all our troubles, and I still catch myself questioning who’s to blame. Fortunately, the vast majority of institutions are not driven by their economic interest exclusively. Employers are employees too, just at a different level on the corporate ladder. They too have a vested interest in their colleagues’ wellbeing.
After a few discussions with colleagues, clients and friends, and some serious head-scratching, I came to believe that there are three major sources explaining employees’ disengagement.
1. Emotional and physical safety ranks top on the list of human needs as per psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy.
Back to 2008 when the financial crisis hit, I was working for one of the biggest banking institutions in London, I watched the “too big to fail” Lehmans go down. I was representing my colleagues in the collective consultation set at the time to let go of about 20% of the team. I remember sitting on the 25th floor of my London office, in a cubicle of four, thinking “who’s the chosen one?”, “I’m the newest here, it has to be me”.. I ended up staying, and decided to write a thank you note to my ex boss from my previous job for having taught me, not only a strong professional expertise, but also the spirit of resilience: together we already worked through the aviation crisis post September 11th.
Industries are disrupted constantly, new businesses die as fast as they pop up, seasoned corporations are dismantled and restructured, and regular waves of redundancies or redeployment sometimes hit people with little notice or fairness.
It comes as no surprise then that employees tend to disconnect from a hopeful and secure future with their employer.
2. A sense of progress and self-actualisation, based on both a professional and personal growth, are essential for anyone to feel accomplished and fulfilled.
Even more so, we need to make progress on meaningful milestones in our work and life in general, and we need to see and acknowledge that progress. And yet, many employees feel stuck in their jobs with no vision or career path.
I must say I certainly didn’t escape that one over the course of my 20 year career in Finance. Call it the glass ceiling, midlife crisis, or just an urge for renewal and diversity, at some point I couldn’t envision myself in the industry any longer. I decided a few years ago to retrain as an NLP practitioner, a coach, and mix it up with my former career, now to support people and institutions to focus their energy and drive in the right place.
Self-actualisation in business can take many forms, it doesn’t have to be just about taking on more leadership, or going for the competition, or retraining to become something completely different like I did. There are many nuances that could be explored starting with reshaping our own definition of success.
3. A need for integrity, to feel our individual values are aligned with those of the institution we represent and work for.
Last year I worked with an HR director who had a strong taste for new and disruptive ideas. More than a taste, in fact getting out of her comfort zone and looking for efficient unconventional solutions was her way of being and she made herself comfortable with her unique strength. Of course she’s thriving when working with startups, but a more established traditional business would not seem a great match.
I see many institutions that have stated their values but they are often too generic and not consistently reflected at each level of the company. And too often, people have not taken the time themselves to reflect on their own values and worth, what they want to achieve or contribute to. It’s like looking for true love on a dating app without inputting your profile, even a good matching algorithm won’t help!
Getting back to business, this sense of having been “lost in translation” reduces employees’ ability to feel involved, connected, or to genuinely understand and represent their employers.
Take those three sources of affliction, add up everything that has been shaking up our world (technological breakthroughs, lifespan increases, illness increases, climate changes, discrimination and violence..) And now Covid has triggered a complete new shift in our way of working and living, sometimes in a good way, but often also in rising anxiety for our health, financials, and overall future.
It is not only possible but expected today for institutions to care about their purpose and their people. Instead of “surviving” our environment, it would be much more pleasant for all of us to “thrive” amongst the unlimited opportunities offered by the uncertainties of the world.
A company like Strengthwise is here to do just that. We support people getting into a sustainable performing mindset and building a resourceful approach to the increasing challenges life throws at us periodically.
Strengthwise offers online programmes (and face-to-face when the time is right) to provide tools for people to stay fully engaged, focused, and performant with what matters to them. We do that by addressing the three main issues identified above and more. You can learn more by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.