You know that draggy, running-in-water feeling that people attribute to an hour at the DMV? Well, it turns out that low, subliminal resentment, is prevalent more often than not in US workers across the board.
And this is not new information. A Gallup Organization study, published in 2002, termed 17% of all US employees “actively disengaged.” These people not only don’t like their jobs, they make sure everybody knows about it. And the drain on company morale drags everybody down. Gallup estimates that these workers cost $300 billion a year in productivity losses.
The next statistic is not a whole lot better. Gallup estimates 59% of workers are “not engaged.” They’re sleepwalking through their jobs. They are the clock watchers; the staff who insist on every single second of a 15-minute break, regardless of what needs to get done and when.
That leaves just 29% of American workers are described as actively engaged in their jobs. These are the people who bring new ideas to the workplace. Engaged workers solve problems. The engaged employee is inspirational to colleagues. Higher levels of worker engagement increase the likelihood that of new ideas. A team of engaged workers amplifies the effect.
And in another case of perception creating reality, the Gallup study found that actively disengaged employees did not believe that their companies were open to new ideas. Of course, the opposite is also true: more than half of the “engaged” employees believed that their employers encouraged new thinking.
So, what can we take from all this? That corporate America is doomed to unhappy workers and failing productivity? It is more likely that what needs to happen is a recognition of the importance of emotional intelligence at work, and a firm commitment to active management.
It seems that the majority of workers don’t care much about their jobs. Considering the breadth of work that’s out there, that’s not unreasonable. Fluffing and folding clothing in a mall store is about as stimulating as pushing paperwork at the DMV. Or putting lables on cans in a factory. Or answering phones in a busy office. The work has to be done. Somebody’s got to fold, or stick, or answer. And it will never be scintillating. How can management bring these employees back to life?
This as a classic marketing problem. Find out what gets your employees going. And give it to them. Some people are motivated by money. Okay, be creative and find a way to offer spiffs. Or bonuses. Tie performance to earning more money. Bingo! A reason to care about the job.
Other people need flexibility. Create a system in which an employee can take her aged parent to the Senior Center two days a week. Or allow new parents room to come in late when they’ve been kept up all night with a teething child.
There are as many examples of problems and solutions as there are people. The skills a good manager needs to put this plan into play are two: Listening, and Creativity.
Listen to your people. Don’t make assumptions. Let them tell you what drives them.
Then, be bold and thorough when designing the solution. When a person’s schedule is flexible, there has to be a system to cover when they are out. Don’t go into this program without carefully assessing every aspect. And then get someone else, with an entirely new eye, to look at it.
The research is clear.Unhappy employees cost money. It only makes sense to turn that around.