Posts tagged employee engagement
Work and Life: Better Together

At the turn of the year, it’s time to focus our work and career efforts in a direction that supports our values for the way we want to live each day. I like to work on thorny problems and find solutions that free people up to find success. I also enjoy connecting with other professionals, and, like I’m doing now, writing about HR and business. 

As I ponder what ingredients go into the ideal work structure, what comes to mind is my favorite campaign for national and local SHRM membership. “Better Together” is the slogan, and there’s a photo of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The idea is that both local chapter membership and national membership are fantastic, but when you put them together, they are even more amazing than the sum of their parts-there is something magical that happens when you get the national resources and opportunities for involvement, plus the local flavor of your very own HR community. It’s like the whole picture becomes visible.

Work and life are like that too. If I just think about, spend my time on, and prioritize work over everything else in life, that can lead to regret, exhaustion, and a one-dimensionality to my days that fails to create an experience in the fullest sense that honors the short stint we all have here on earth. I am fully passionate about my work, and love doing it. The issue is that without the messiness that comes along with life, its fragility and fleeting nature, I lose connection, passion and fail to grow as a person. Add to that the tendency that technology has to isolate us, and it’s easy to spend our time every day working, tapping away at our keyboards & phones in our technology bubbles, sleeping and getting up to do it all over again. I don’t know about you, but I need the freedom to zig and zag and work and live and laugh and stumble and fly away and come back, all in the course of a week.

Accordingly, I’m going to be spending more of my time focused on how work fits in 2018, in a manner that also supports the way I want to live, which is enjoying time doing fun things with my family and friends. That means minimizing commute time, fitting my work schedule to my life needs, and preserving flexibility. Consciously choosing work that allows this will guide my decisions this year. The days of working within constraints so that one can eventually “retire” to a better life are over. Our better lives need to begin today from now on, because we will likely be working until the end of our lives, if you’re a Gen Xer like me.

I just re-read this paragraph and realized that this is the kind of work I and many people have always wanted. It preserves autonomy, enhances work-life integration, and is imminently sustainable. It gives us the opportunity to feel passion and energy around work, and enables the satisfaction that productivity brings as a natural human desire. It banishes the stress and anxiety of a life not within our control. 

Not all of us have the power to re-make our work lives this way. So, Managers, take heed: if you can provide these things for your employees, they will choose to stay with you. Retention ceases to be a problem. Engagement of your employees will soar and you will be the employer that everyone seeks to work with. 

If we want better results and better lives in 2018, let’s all take a more human approach to work, together.  

Photo by Gayle Nicholson on / CC BY-SA

85% of Employees Worldwide Are Not Engaged-How Can HR Make an Impact?

Worldwide, employees are so lacking in connection to their work, the word “engagement” has almost become background noise. It’s time we began to talk more specifically about what it means-like when we treat people like machines, they lose connection with what they do. Process over people is always going to create risk that people will lose hope that their work will have meaning. It happens to us as HR professionals too-if we are in a box that requires we address problems as policy and process issues, instead of considering the human side of what happens at work, we have the potential to become disenchanted and disconnected as well. It’s not surprising, then, to hear that according to Gallup, 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work.

I’ve been reading Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace Executive Summary this weekend, and according to the report, the business case for engagement is clear:

Business units in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee engagement database are: 17% more productive than those in the bottom quartile AND 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.

Looking at engagement worldwide, Gallup identified something interesting about economically developed employee populations. This tendency to emphasize process over people does have a negative impact on engagement. However, when Gallup reviewed data on Western European employee engagement, they discovered something interesting (if sad):

Only 10% of employed Western Europeans are engaged at work; by comparison, the figure among U.S. employees is more than three times as high at 33%.  

East Asia's engagement came even lower, at 6%. So as low as U.S. employee engagement is, when we consider that the nature of work in economically developed nations creates challenges for us in the type of work that must be performed, and the way it must be managed in order to maximize productivity, it’s worth identifying what is keeping U.S. worker engagement at a higher level than Western Europe. In Gallup’s analysis, it’s performance management practices that recognize the human need for psychological engagement, like relationships, recognition, ongoing coaching and feedback, and opportunities for development. Less hierarchical arrangements that allow people to choose roles that play to their strengths also increases engagement, as does the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

We are doing some things right in the U.S., and it doesn’t escape notice that the professionals who drive design, implementation and ongoing management of these performance systems are in HR. It’s clear that we in human resources can impact employee engagement through identifying ways to feed employees’ need for meaning, growth and opportunity. In some ways, this is the key to our own engagement in HR. If we know that reorienting the way we address performance management and development has the potential to directly impact engagement, and we can show that engagement creates productivity and profitability, then we have the tools we need at hand to drive change in our organizations.

The question when considering any decision should always be, “what is the most meaningful option for our employees?” To some extent, this can depend on the culture of our organization and the things our employees uniquely value. We can find out by asking questions, and then genuinely listening, and responding in ways that align with the company’s values and employees’ human needs.

The key to engagement? We’re not machines. We perform at our best when we find joy, excitement and meaning in the work we do. Everything we do in HR should be oriented toward this end, for ourselves, and for employees.

Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via / CC BY