A New York Times article about employee engagement – or the lack of it – got a lot of people talking this past week. The headline Why You Hate Work sure was a grabber.
Employee engagement is a particular passion of mine. My SlideShare presentations on this topic have received over 12,000 views and 175 downloads. To me that indicates a lot of interest. But, as the Times authors point out, there is a lot of talk about engagement but not much happening.
Why People Are Unhappy
The Times article talks about how modern technology is one of the principal culprits for employees feeling burned out, unhappy and hating their jobs. The authors partnered with the Harvard Business Review to survey more than 12,000 mostly white-color employees across a broad range of companies and industries. This is what they found.
Even Luke Kissen, the CEO of Albemarle, a multi-million dollar chemical company, reported that he was feeling so overwhelmed that he sought the advice of one of the article’s authors, Tony Schwarz, head of the Energy Project, a consulting firm. Kissen told Schwarz, “ I felt just felt that no matter what I was doing I was always getting pulled somewhere else.”
Engaged Employees are More Satisfied
Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met, according to the study authors:
- Physical – through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work
- Emotional – by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions
- Mental – when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done
- Spiritual – by doing what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work
A good friend told me she’s going to retire from her job at a Fortune 500 company soon. She’s sold her vacation house and is downsizing from her current home to something smaller. It’s worth it to her to get out from under. She’s not yet 60 and could continue to work, but she’s unhappy. “All I do all day long is answer emails and participate in conference calls.” She doesn’t feel a connection to the organization.
Hundreds of people work there but nobody talks to one another. They are glued their computer screens and sneaking looks at their smart phones all day. Emails are a constant interruption and yet another project is thrown at them with little direction and understanding of why it is important to the organization.
I have to say I was guilty, too, when I was working for a PR agency and sending emails to my colleague in the next office. Whatever happened to schmoozing at the water cooler? Except that if you went to the water cooler you likely wouldn’t find someone there. Small talk at the water cooler is fast becoming a thing of the past when so many people are working virtually.
What Would Make My Employees Happy?
It seems simple, but company leaders need to ask themselves, “What would make my employees happy?” The authors suggest, for example, mandating time limits on meetings, setting boundaries on sending and responding to emails, creating fitness facilities so that employees can take a break to recharge, and training managers how to fill their own needs and the needs of their employees.
This presentation on SlideShare has gotten almost 3,500 views since I uploaded it four years ago. Honestly, these are simple tips. It pleases me that people are searching for ways to engage and motivate employees. I hope you find these useful, too.
What would make you happier at work? If you are working for yourself now, is it because you didn’t feel satisfied at work? What might have kept you at your job?