There are thousands of organizations across the globe that have mediocre/poor leadership, and many of them survive day to day, month to month and year to year. These organizations–from schools to software development firms to financial institutions and beyond–simply rely on people getting their work done. Whether an employee is engaged/active is of no real concern to the organization.
Some organizations, however, not only survive, they thrive. Why? These organizations believe that they have a responsibility for their employees quality of life, not just providing them a fair paycheck. Employees in these work environments are much more likely to be committed to and involved with their work than those organizations that simply trudge along from day to day.
The research Daniel Pink highlights and the research conducted by Gallup point to a few conclusions that should drive leaders in their work. In fact, it is very clear, yet not quickly or easily done, how to get employees engaged/active in their work.
First, employees must be emotionally connected to their work. And, here’s the thing, employees don’t get emotionally connected to their work simply because you tell them to do so. An emotional connection to work speaks to the fact that employees must understand and connect to WHY they are doing what they are doing. As Gallup puts it, “Great managers help employees understand how every role in the organization connects to the customer through the company’s mission and purpose.” Employees who don’t see or who aren’t given the opportunity to see a bigger purpose will, most likely, be those that trudge along day in and day out. A company full of “trudgers” is a place of “trudgery” to work.
I love this image! The person signing all the students’ yearbooks in this picture is not the principal or the PE coach. It’s the custodian of the school. Why? Because the custodian understands that his purpose is to make a contribution to the lives of the students, not just clean the school. An accounts payable clerk that simply believes his/her job is to pay the bills will not be engaged/active in their work; they will simply be doing their job. A leader has to connect the product being manufactured or the service provide to a purpose beyond the actual work of developing good or providing services.
Why does being engaged/active in work matter? Gallup estimates that billions of dollars are lost each year to employees that are not engaged/active in their work. And, besides, it just makes sense that organizations should be concerned about the quality of life of their people. An organization that doesn’t want their employees lives to be fulfilled is missing the whole point of life, I think. Life should be a fulfilling adventure both inside and outside work.