One thing that leaders often forget – as they wrap their people in yet another raft of policy and rules – is that the vast majority of people come to work each day to do their best.
They don’t turn up on a mission to sabotage the customer experience, or given half a chance, send an abusive email to the person sitting next to them.
So why is it that, yet again, research shows that there is an engagement issue in the workforce of so many UK organisations?
The latest insight from Oracle reveals that only around a third of Western European employees say they feel engaged most of the time. CIPD research paints a slightly rosier picture – only three per cent are actively disengaged – but 59 per cent are sitting on the fence, describing their engagement as “neutral”.
What’s really interesting about this latest CIPD outlook research is that a majority of employees are looking for something many might say is outmoded – an organisation with a family feel held together by traditions and loyalty – yet only 26 per cent described their current employer as being like this.
Instead they talked about their working world as formalised and structured, where procedures govern what people do and hold people together. Herein lies the mass of the UK workforce sadly, disconnected and loyal at best to their work colleagues and not jumping out of their beds in the morning with a spring in their step.
It’s not that they don’t necessarily want to bust a gut for their employer – they cannot see the “what’s in it for me” and even with a glimpse of that they don’t necessarily know how to do that either.
Read more on employee engagement:
- Four companies that know how to keep staff happy
- How changing the internal culture of Airbnb, Pinterest and Uber netted Culture Amp $6.3m
- Employees ask their bosses to make them feel more engaged at work
So how should organisations respond? Well if it was easy there wouldn’t be government task forces on the issue, but there are five principles that deserve better attention from leaders than they are getting – and, to be frank, they require some bravery and risk taking too:
1. Understand your culture and ask if the way you do things really works – get granular because it’s often the little things that symbolise what is wrong – and by the way your classical employee engagement survey is not the answer
2. Consider stripping process out – how many of your procedures really do add value? – engage employee SWAT teams to do it and given them real power
3. Light some fires at ground floor level – turn your recognition scheme on its head and give the power to employees to reward leadership behaviours
4. Make your purpose meaningful throughout the organisation – connect it to everyone and each and every action
5. Leaders have to help managers manage and question the future of those that cannot – this is where the true interface of engagement lies
It’s about connecting the dots – we are human, we want to belong, we want purpose and satisfaction from achieving it.
Helen Rosethorn is an employee engagement specialist and partner at marketing consultancy Prophet
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