3 keys to keep people fully engaged at work
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 significant impact on:
- Employees’ ability to adapt to a fast changing work environment,
- Their capacity to find creative solutions to complex problems,
- Their resilience when facing uncertainty and change,
- Their capacity to care for each other,
- The overall team dynamics and its productivity, and
- The risk of increased misunderstandings, frustrations and conflicts.
In short, unhappy employees lead to unserviced customers and unrewarded investors.
Who’s fault is that? Most likely, a shared contribution, amongst others:
- Ailing economies and political and health challenges worldwide,
- Multiplying reports of overwork, burnouts, cases of isolation and other psychological stress among employees, and
- Overworked managers and leaders, often ill-prepared for the challenges posed by remote or hybrid working, and for the task of motivating fragmented teams.
Before Covid, employees’ engagement at work was already a concern for many organisations.
What if the pandemic only accelerated major societal changes already underway: digital and technological upheavals, increase in life expectancy, shaded by the rise of chronic and metabolic diseases, climate change, globalisation, migratory flows, stand-ups against discriminations and violence…?
Our ways of living and working have been endlessly turned upside down, sometimes for the better, often in growing anxiety for our physical and mental health, our finances and our future in general.
Employees’ engagement at work has followed these societal changes and can be broken down into three main elements.
1. Emotional and physical safety
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
This need has to be based on both a professional and personal growth, they 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
We want to feel our individual values are aligned with those of the institution we represent and work for.
When a company includes “serving our customers” in its founding values, you don’t expect this company to be sued for disability discrimination against customers. “Make room for diversity” does not seem compatible with racial or gender discrimination. “Act with integrity” does not fit with a CEO filmed while insulting an employee.
In these examples, sometimes the facts happened despite the values displayed by the company. Other times, new values were claimed after the facts in order to change the image of the company.
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.
As for companies, they are often not set to maximise the performance and wellbeing of their employees.
Not even set to perform? Yes. Gallup affirms that the modern manager must be a coach above all which include many “soft” skills such as:
- Communicating efficiently,
- Active listening,
- Appreciating and valuing the team,
- Creating trust, or
- Demonstrate discernment in the management of conflicts.
Yet, most leaders are still promoted for their expertise in their field and not for their ability to lead.
For a greater wellbeing at work, and for a sustainable performance of the company and its people, it is essential to reverse this trend. Especially since today, most of the value of companies is in their “goodwill”, that is to say the people, its employees and their creativity.
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.