Take a trip with me to explore the culture of your organization. Imagine this … you’ve had a position you’ve needed to fill for quite some time. You’ve interviewed several qualified candidates, and after sharing with each candidate the wonderful culture of your organization, you’ve narrowed your search to one final candidate. You’ve made the offer, but before the person will accept, she’s asked to have a quick meeting with a group of randomly selected employees.
“It’s no big deal,” she says. “I just want to hear what they have to say about the organization, and where they think the company’s headed. I’d like to get an idea about what it’s like to work here.” She may say it’s no big deal, but you know her decision hinges on what she hears in this meeting.
As you wait anxiously in your office for the outcome, questions are flying through your head. “What are they saying about the company? What are they saying about our future? What are they saying about our values? What are they saying about my leadership team? What are they saying about me?”
Chances are, once you answer each of these questions in your head, you then ask the most important question of all. “Do I fire them all when they get out, or just a few?”
Some of you reading this blog would need oxygen as you considered how your employees would answer these questions to a prospective employee. On the other hand, some of you wouldn’t be concerned at all. You’d take a leisurely walk down to the closest coffee shop for your morning coffee, knowing your team is giving you and your organization a glowing review. Why? Because you know your employees have a high commitment to the organization and its values. You know your employees are dedicated to the vision, and are eager to contribute. You know how they are bragging about how productive the team is, and how the leaders of the organization live by the organization’s values.
Before you take that first sip of your hazelnut cappuccino, you may want to sit down. According to research, most employees don’t fit that description. In fact, according to a survey conducted by The Gallup Organization, only 30 percent of employees are engaged. Most employees are disengaged. They show up to work each day and do the minimum to get by. They collect a paycheck and go home. These aren’t bad people. They simply don’t have a passion for their work and they make up 50 percent of any organization.
The remaining 20 percent of employees are actively disengaged. These employees are not committed to the organization’s future and are opposed to just about everything you do. Most are miserable and want to share it with anyone who will listen. In fact, they’re out recruiting new members every day. And in some cases, they are the most vocal and influential leaders in the organization.
Based on these statistics from the Gallup survey, there’s a good chance your job candidate is getting an earful of something you’d rather they not hear. With only one out of every four employees truly engaged on the job, it wouldn’t be surprising.
The problem of employee disengagement is a source of ongoing frustration for leaders of any organization. Not only does it irritate the management team, it demoralizes the productive employees who carry the majority of the workload. And although employee disengagement exists, what is really being done to overcome it?
My experience has shown me that most leaders just complain about it. Even worse, they find a way to blame it on the employee. “They’re just lazy,” I hear. “They must be part of that young, unmotivated generation.” There seems to be a myriad of excuses why employee disengagement is allowed to continue.
Without question, employees have a responsibility to contribute to a culture of employee engagement. No one gets to show up to work with their arms crossed saying, “Engage me.” But, most bosses will wait a long, disappointing time hoping an employee will see the light and suddenly become a productive part of the workforce. The responsibility for productivity and profitability rests on the shoulders of leadership, and so does the responsibility to overcome employee disengagement. So, why don’t they do it?
There may be several reasons, but perhaps the most significant is that most leaders are spending more time managing tasks and not nearly enough time leading people. If you don’t believe that observation, just spend one day without your cell phone, PDA, or e-mail. You’ll find out quickly how much of your “hectic day” is spent managing the business and putting out fires and not leading the people on your team.
Despite the concern for employee disengagement, there is good news. Employees don’t want to be disengaged. They start a new job as engaged employees in hopes of finding the place where they can be productive. Then something happens. They get a new boss. Their job responsibilities change. Perhaps some promises get broken. We’ve all been there. The employee faces a fork in the road. They either find a way to make it work and become engaged, or they join the ranks of the vast majority of disengaged employees.
While we’re out running the business, we let the employee silently determine which path they’ll take when they reach that fork in the road. We learn of their choice when we see a report that shows customer complaints are up or product quality is down. We learn of their choice when we see a report that shows turnover is up or morale is down. It is then that we realize they chose the path of employee disengagement.
The question then is how we help build a culture to overcome employee disengagement. The answer is simple. Employee engagement is a product of strong leadership. In the midst of managing the business, we must focus our efforts on developing better leaders. In a nutshell, people are sick of being managed and are starving to be led.
So, what would employees say about the culture of your organization? And even more importantly, what are you doing to influence their answers?
© 2015 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit www.verbalocity.com, or contact him directly email@example.com.