For over two decades, since the concept came into awareness, many managers have been working to improve employee engagement. Historically, though, you can trace the roots engagement back to the work of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. When Maslow’s general theory of motivation was translated into the world of management, self-actualization became the goal for all employees — an idea that many authors (e.g. here) have since related to employee engagement.
Since Maslow entered management, managers have pushed for engagement, finding fulfillment, or simply “doing what you love” on the job. But, this is a narrow interpretation of an already pretty narrow view of human motivation.
A quick look at global employee engagement suggests that the way we’ve been pursuing self-actualizing work is likely misguided. Despite massive investments over the past two decades, we’ve seen little change in global employee engagement. In fact, a recent report from Gallup celebrates a 1% increase actively engaged members of the workforce with no change in the percent who are actively disengaged — and says nothing about the consistent majority of workers who are neither actively engaged or disengaged.
All of the effort and investment in driving engagement and self-actualization typically ignores what we really know about motivation. Motivation at work, and beyond, is deeply individual. We know that work motivation isn’t simply a linear progression toward self-actualization, engagement, or happiness. What then should a well-intentioned manager who’s been overdosed with Maslow do to help improve employee experience and performance?
“Take this pill and all your weight loss and fitness dreams will come true! No workouts needed!”
“Get that summer 6-pack in 30 days!”
…if only that were true.
We’ve all seen products that claim to have the “key” or the “hack” to the magazine-cover physique. We also know there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work and dedication to achieve your fitness goals. So, be wary of those tactics, because looking for shortcuts doesn’t always work out.
However, there’s a difference between claiming to have found a way to “beat the system” and uncovering something that’s been under your nose the whole time. In this context, we’re talking about your company culture. Regardless of how “healthy” (or unhealthy) it may be, there is one thing you can do to make an immediate impact.
Disclaimer: This definitely won’t burn off that Hungry Man Chicken Dinner you just popped into the microwave.
When I misbehaved as a young lad, my mother was the one who almost always reprimanded me. After lecturing me on the rights and wrongs, she’d ask, “Did you do that on purpose, son?” and then hand out the punishment. My actions were almost always spontaneous episodes of teenage stupidity—not premeditated acts of dissent. While I was definitely a rebellious teenager, my mother’s inquisition always made me think about my actions, and to this day, “Are you doing that on purpose?” is a question I ask myself regularly about my impact on others.
Purpose and people are the new frontier.
For most businesses today, the most valuable asset they manage is their people—and employee engagement and satisfaction are strategic imperatives that every leadership team should understand. People who turn up to work each day and aren’t actively using their talents to pursue or connect to their purpose don’t operate at their full potential. People who find their reason for being, who uncover their purpose and connect with it passionately, become more engaged and significantly more effective at work and in life because of a clear sense of fulfillment. Helping your employees discover and define their purpose represents a significant opportunity to improve “people” engagement and, therefore, overall business performance.
Companies that find their purpose are no different when they define or rediscover their reason for being. Working closely with executive teams at large corporations to reposition and refresh their brands, we encounter many who ask for our guidance to explore and define their purpose. This is not just vision and mission work, it is deep strategic work that can impact every facet of a business, both inside and outside of a company. Read More…
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself in a conversation with a client, potential client, or team member about the challenges they face with actively engaging their employees. The topic of employee engagement is certainly not new but the tactics associated with engaging employees continues to evolve. This evolution is spurred on by a variety of factors, including technological innovation, and people’s ability to repurpose existing methods in the employee engagement arena.
Take, for example, the prominent use of video conferencing applications in the workplace. Technological advances in both video and in internet bandwidth have created an opportunity for many businesses to capitalize on remote work options for employees that would have never been possible just mere years ago.
Another such reinvention of a popular communication vehicle in today’s society is the use of podcasts by corporations as a way to engage their employees. Take, for example, the wildly popular Trader Joe’s podcast. Originally intended to be a limited, five episode, release, the popularity of the effort evolved into an ongoing phenomenon that customers love as well.
Podcasts may be all the rage, but they might not be the silver bullet your organization is looking for to engage your employees. In an effort to dive a bit deeper into the topic, I spoke with two experts to understand their opinions on when and why an internal, corporate podcast may be the right solution for you.
“Assume capability, not intent,” is part of a military maxim used in intelligence. While somewhat more arcane when employed in intelligence, its shortened form can serve as an effective and simple reminder of how to approach those with whom we interact in the business world.
Have you ever sat in a meeting and watched the people around the table and started writing your own narrative about them? Your thoughts range from:
“He doesn’t care,” you say about one person.
“She has an agenda she’s trying to push,” you smugly say to yourself about another.
And then there is the inevitable, “He’s lazy and doesn’t want to get the job done.”
What’s the common denominator of such narratives? They are all judgment based and blindly come to conclusions about the intent of each individual, based on nothing more than opinion and feelings. As such they do nothing to enhance our personal and professional relationships and thus materially contribute to distrust, making them detrimental to how a team operates.
Workplace Loneliness and the Importance of Community
A huge factor in the prevalence of loneliness at work is the lack of a nurtured and authentic community. As humans, we are organically communal. When the ability to form connections is absent it’s natural for us to feel isolated.
In the workplace, community and culture are influenced by company values. Often those values aren’t overly difficult to identify. The hard part is bringing them to life. Whereas values are defined, community is forever moving. It’s not a process. It’s an organic ecosystem that in many ways constantly evaluates the meaning of business values at a single point in time rather than adhering to them ongoing in an unwavering manner. In short, communal interactions are stress tests in cultural authenticity. They determine which values matter the most and challenge those that may not be overly robust or that employees can’t live by. A positive values-driven community breaks down silos. It laterally cuts across organizations taking politics and difficult divergent views out of the picture. It has the power to bond by removing obstacles through shared goals, interests and commitments. It galvanizes and helps individuals and the company as a whole to grow, and through all of this, it’s one of the most significant ways to prevent or reduce loneliness. Community through culture must, therefore, be fostered for the good of everyone.
7 Ways to Reduce Isolation In The Workplace
All is not lost. There are many approaches worth considering to manage the problem of loneliness in the workplace. Not every one is right for every company, but here are seven to consider.
According to Psychology Today 40% of people will experience the pain of loneliness during their lifetime. Despite its prevalence, the feeling of being alone or isolated is an often-misunderstood condition. Here are some facts.
Loneliness increases the likelihood of serious illness by repressing our immune systems. Depression, heart disease, strokes, panic attacks, low energy, and mental paralysis can all occur
Admission of loneliness is contagious. When a person opens up about their sense of negative isolation, 52% of his or her friends are more likely to subsequently admit they have the same challenge
It’s no longer a condition solely associated with the elderly. The average age of those suffering is declining fast
It poses a greater health risk than obesity
It’s worse for our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day
Acute loneliness increases the likelihood of early death by 14%
The launch of a new strategic effort represents a key opportunity for senior leaders to set things off on the right foot. Unfortunately, many senior executives fail to grasp the importance that a well prepared and delivered executive kickoff can have on the success of a project team.
This may happen because some leaders don’t take the time to develop the skills necessary to ensure that their kickoffs meet the mark or because they don’t see the inherent importance that their presence, statements, and interactions with others can have on their staff. Whatever the reason, or reasons, taking the time and effort to adequately prepare for this leadership responsibility can certainly pay dividends. Read More…
Congratulations to Chelsea Weber and Kate Gerasimova for having their presentation, “Enhancing Participation in Organizational Design with Technology” accepted at this year’s International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). The conference will be held in Seattle, WA and their presentation will take place on April 8th from 9:45-11:45 am.
Last year, HubSpot’s Culture Code went viral. The SlideShare, created by our CTO and co-founder Dharmesh Shah, inspired comments and compliments from partners, customers, industry experts, and competitors alike. The deck itself is remarkable, but to me what’s more important than the document is the degree to which we practice what we preach.
At the end of the day, a company’s culture isn’t about ping-pong tables, free snacks or perks. It’s about collective expectations for how you hire, fire, and work on a daily basis. People talk a lot about business plans as it relates to your P&L, cash flows, and strategy to beat your competitors, but invest very little time and energy into codified how they actually run and manage the business on a daily basis.
Businesses who ignore their company’s culture do so at their peril. In a recent study of 15,000 millennials, “people and culture fit” far outpaced any other option as their top consideration for employment. You can give out all the t-shirts and swag you want, but the next generation of world-class talent is cognizant of the fact that they’ll spend years of their lives at work.