‘Why You Hate Work’ (Only 30 Percent of Employees Engaged?)

No Comments » June 21st, 2014 posted by // Categories: Spotlight


‘Why You Hate Work’ (Only 30 Percent of Employees Engaged?)

Topic: E-pinions

By Dan Oswald

Sunday’s New York Times featured an article titled “Why You Hate Work.” Right from the opening paragraph, I must admit, I had my back up a bit.

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But I continued to plow through despite—or maybe because of—my skepticism. Not too far into my reading, I was confronted by some staggering statistics that seem to prove the authors’ points. Numbers usually speak to me because they are concrete, logical, and factual. According to a study of more than 12,000 workers, employees don’t get to do what they enjoy most at work by a margin of nearly 2:1. That’s not all—the majority said they don’t have a sense of community or overall positive energy or even know how to be successful while at work.
The article claims it’s very likely that I’m not excited about my work, I don’t feel appreciated while there, I find it difficult to get my most important tasks accomplished, and I really don’t feel like what I do makes a difference. How dare these people tell me what I’m thinking and feeling?! They don’t know me.

I found those statistics amazing. But, alas, I discovered the study was conducted by the authors’ company, “which works with organizations and their leaders to improve employee engagement and more sustainable performance.” The skeptic in me wondered how random the sample of workers used for the study really was.

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But I continued on deeper into the article. It wasn’t too long before I found another statistic. This time it came from a report by Gallup, the trusted polling organization. With this one, it would be tougher for me to question the validity of the study because it had Gallup’s name attached to it. The statistic? Only 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work—30 percent! Three of 10 workers feel engaged at work. That means for every person who does feel engaged, two don’t!

I looked up the definition of employee engagement. Here’s what I found: “Employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.”

Committed to the organization’s goals and values. Got it. Motivated to contribute to organizational success. Check. Able to enhance own sense of well-being. Roger. But 70 percent of America’s workers aren’t committed, aren’t motivated to contribute, and aren’t able to enhance their own sense of well-being. It’s amazing that companies in America can stay in business when the majority of workers feel this way.

And just as that last thought popped into my head, I was confronted by more stats from Gallup. It found that companies in the top quarter for employee engagement when compared to those in the bottom quarter have higher profitability, higher customer ratings, less theft, and few safety incidents. Well, that makes sense. So, everyone wants greater employee engagement because “the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform.” That I can buy.

So, how do you encourage employee engagement? How do you become a company that falls into the top quartile for engagement instead of the bottom? The authors provide some ideas:

  • Renewal. Frequent breaks increase focus, creative thinking, and feelings of health and well-being. And a supervisor who encourages frequent breaks nearly doubles the chances an employee will stay with the company.
  • Value. Supervisors are key to employees feeling valued. Not surprisingly, supervisors have the greatest impact on employees’ sense of trust and safety within the organization. And employees with a supportive supervisor are more engaged and more likely to stay with the company.
  • Focus. Providing an opportunity for employees to focus on one task at a time increases engagement. Obviously, employees feel pulled in many directions at once with demands coming from throughout the organization, but allowing them to really focus drives engagement.
  • Purpose. Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are more than three times as likely to stay with their organization than the average employee. Finding ways to connect employees with the mission and vision of the company and helping them see exactly how they can contribute goes a long way toward having engaged workers.

So despite my initial skepticism about the article, I must say I can’t really argue with the message. I generally agree that employee engagement is dismally low in most organizations and that an increase in engagement would help drive almost every critical key indicator in most companies. And I can’t argue with the four factors the authors point to that will drive greater engagement. They all make intuitive sense, and most, if not all, are frequently named as key drivers of employee engagement.

The tough part is figuring out what you can do in your department or organization to drive engagement. That means you need to spend time and—probably—some money to figure it out. But with only three in 10 employees in America feeling engaged, there’s plenty of room for improvement. And with the impact engagement has on the results of the business, it’s hard to argue against giving it more attention.

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