Why Is Our Workforce Truly Unengaged?

 

Unengaged

87% of the Worldwide Workforce is Unengaged

We’ve all heard these numbers because it’s been reported on for years now, most notably by Gallup®. We’ve also learned that disengaged employees cost the US alone, between $450 and $550 billion dollars per year, while we spend more than $750 million to try and solve the problem.

So why is the problem still so big and why haven’t we achieved very much with the time and money being spent on the problem?

We’re clearly still missing something.

Some argue that the problem is the historic definition of “employee engagement” by Gallup® and many others. Thankfully we’re starting to see the definitions improve, but we still have different definitions and therefore we’re still hoping for different results.

Take a look at the 12 elements Gallup measures for engagement:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Really? If you were assessing your own degree of engagement, is this how you’d measure it?  Don’t get me wrong, some of these are good, and some are “nice to know”, but is this the best we can do?  Is this the high bar we want to set for ourselves and for others?

I see a glaring hole in their concept of engagement, and it makes me wonder:

  • Shouldn’t your personal desire to learn about your work, and the degree to which, be considered and measured?
  • To what degree is your own natural curiosity and sense of wonder engaged in your work?
  • In other words, are you only learning what you “need to”, to do your job and/or to stay “up to date” or “competitive”?
  • Do you yearn to learn as much as you can about the work you do?  We all do when we start a new job, but what about after you’ve settled in?
  • How much of your own time, on nights, weekends and even on vacations, do you spend wondering about and trying to learn more about the problems your organization wants to solve/the products and/or services you provide/the customers you serve?
  • What do you most wonder about?  Not worry about, but wonder about.
  • What do you most desire to learn about?
  • What kinds of books, magazine, articles, videos/TED Talks are you most naturally drawn to?

Shouldn’t your own natural desire to learn matter?

  • How engaged are you, truly, if you spend far more time wondering about – wanting to learn about other things?
  • How engaged are you, truly, if most of the books, magazines, articles and videos you watch are about something completely different?
  • How engaged are you, truly, if you don’t have a personal and profound connection to what you do and the problems you’re trying to solve?
  • How creative and imaginative are you going to be at work, if you’re not truly, profoundly curious about the work you do?
  • How great will the new products and services be, that you help develop, if you’re not profoundly and passionately curious about what you do?
  • How much is the company benefiting from your intellectual, creative and imaginative potential, if your mind is playing and having far more fun elsewhere?
  • How engaged are you, truly, if your mind always wants to wander off to find answers to other problems?
  • How engaged are you, truly, if your own most burning questions lie elsewhere?

Shouldn’t your own profound and passionate curiosity matter?

The Conference Board and The Engagement Institute™ is doing lots of work in the area of engagement, and their definition of engagement is:

“a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or co-workers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.”

That sounds much better! But how “heightened” should my “emotional and intellectual connection” be;  compared to what?  I care more about the poverty problem than I do the car industry – I definitely have more of a heightened and emotional connection to the poverty problem, but I don’t spend any of my own time looking for answers to this problem.  I might read a short article someone posted online, or pay attention to a news story that happens to come across the screen, but thats not enough.  The question should be; do then want to go search for more articles, stories and information, in search of better answers – because I desperately want to help solve this problem?

The question should be; what will most influence your desire to apply more of your discretionary effort?

Additionally, if you only have a heightened and intellectual connection to your manager or a co-worker, that will not necessarily translate into more discretionary effort at work; you may want to spend all of your discretionary effort working on a new project or company idea with them, in and outside of work! And, while you might have the an emotional and intellectual connection with the problems your organization solves and/or the customers you serve, you might not feel the same about your peers.

This definition is very good, but they’re still not connecting everything, nor are they reaching high enough.

Therefore, I believe a much better measurement of engagement would be:

  • The higher an employee’s emotional and intellectual connection with the problems they/their organization wants to solve/the products and or services they provide/the customers they serve, along with the degree of emotional and intellectual connection to their peers, the greater their desire to apply additional discretionary effort, and therefore, the more engaged they are.
  • True and full engagement only occurs when an employee has the utmost emotional and intellectual connection with the problems they/their organization solve and/or is trying to solve/the products and/or services they provide/the customer they serve, along with the utmost emotional and intellectual connection with some of their peers.

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

But I say, “Discover what you most profoundly care about and wonder most about as a result, and then spend your life and life’s work in a passionate search for better answers.”

I assure you, anyone that does that, will never work another day in their life either.  But the added benefit is, we’ll find better answers to the problems we face.

That begs the question; what percentage of the worldwide workforce is truly and fully engaged?  Maybe 1 or 2%

I believe 98% of the worldwide workforce us unengaged!  

So then the question becomes; how can we help ensure that more people are truly and fully engaged in their work?  Well that’s a little more complicated.

However, it starts by helping each and everyone discover their most profound and passionate curiosity. Then and only then will you know the degree to which they have an emotional and intellectual connection to the work they do or want to do.

Do you know what your most profound and passionate curiosity is?

If not, would you like to discover it?

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10 Responses

  1. Bob Gately says:

    Hello Tom,

    Employers do not hire for nor do they manage for engagement therefore, 80% of employees do not become engaged; the other 20% are hired by accident. Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few engaged employees.

    80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
    80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
    The two 80 percents are closely related.

    Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employee lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack. Employers that do not hire for Job Talent have an 80% chance of hiring the wrong people to be their employees which is an employer created problem not an employee created problem.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent 



    Employers do a… 

    A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees. 

    B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture. 

    C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job. 


    Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent

    There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
    1. How do we define talent?
    2. How do we measure talent?
    3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
    4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
    5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

    Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

    Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

    Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.

  2. Lori McLennan says:

    Well said, Mr. Gately, employee engagement begins and ends with leadership.

  3. Ilkka Kakko says:

    Thanks for a valuable viewpoint! One reason for this is an old-fashioned and harmful attitude by managers and this is illustrated by highlighting slogans like “Get out of your comfort zone!” My perspective for that you may read from this link: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140902055334-72500-why-get-out-of-your-comfort-zone-is-a-very-bad-advice

    • Tom McDermott says:

      Thanks for your comments and feedback Ilkkam, and my apologies for just responding. I did not see your comment for some reason. But thanks again! Tom

  4. Excellent read. I just passed this onto a buddy who was doing a little research on that. He just bought me lunch since I found it for him! Thus let me rephrase: Thanks for lunch!

    • Tom McDermott says:

      Thanks for the read and the kind words Archie! And I hope you enjoyed your lunch! 🙂 Have your friend reach out if has any questions. Best. Tom

  5. I more often than not do not submit in Blogs but your blogging site forced me to, magnificent job..

  1. August 29, 2014

    […] “Discover what you most profoundly care about and wonder most about as a result, and then spend your life and life’s work in a passionate search for better answers. I assure you, anyone that does that, will never work another day in their life either. But the added benefit is, we’ll find better answers to the problems we face." Shouldn’t your own natural desire to learn matter?Shouldn’t your own profound and passionate curiosity matter?The question should be; what will most influence your desire to apply more of your discretionary effort?  […]

  2. August 31, 2014

    […] “Discover what you most profoundly care about and wonder most about as a result, and then spend your life and life’s work in a passionate search for better answers. I assure you, anyone that does that, will never work another day in their life either. But the added benefit is, we’ll find better answers to the problems we face." Shouldn’t your own natural desire to learn matter?Shouldn’t your own profound and passionate curiosity matter?The question should be; what will most influence your desire to apply more of your discretionary effort?  […]

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