Employee Engagement: Getting Personal

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Engagement is Essential to Put Your Life to Work

Why I’m Motivated and Engaged

I’ve always been fortunate in that my purpose in life overlaps with what I do for a living. And that purpose is to help organizations in their hiring, employee development, and relational dynamics so that their employees love coming to work and find their work meaningful. In the literature, that’s known as “employee engagement,” but as Josh Bersin points out, enhancing engagement isn’t easy!

In 2015, only 32.4% of U.S. employees were engaged in their work, according to Gallup, and even fewer around the world. Among other negatives, this means that disengaged, dissatisfied workers cost the United States $450 to $550 billion per year in productivity alone! In my consulting work, I use these scary numbers—and others like them—to help executives and human resources managers address specific staffing needs or general organizational culture problems, but my own motivation for addressing the engagement problem is more personal.

Before I led assessment and engagement initiatives in Pittsburgh organizations, I was a guidance counselor in K-12 education—and I loved it! I loved getting to know these students, seeing beyond the apathetic masks of some students and the surface bravado of others to show them their own strengths and help them find a good educational path. But I noticed that not everyone around me was as fully engaged. Several of my co-workers were miserable in their jobs: they didn’t like teaching kids and they hated dealing with parents, or they couldn’t stand the administrative burden of modern education. Often, though, they stayed and suffered, sometimes for their whole working lives!

That was a reality I couldn’t fathom, and I still can’t. Everyone can not only be good at something but also be thrilled to be doing it. People might need help finding their niche. They might need development in that position to be all they can be. They might need some relational coaching in their work team so that everyone knows how to work together as an efficient and caring unit. But spending a lifetime being miserable at work is unnecessary, and just too sad.

Are the people in your organization passionate about what they do? Or are they part of the two-thirds of American employees who dread Monday mornings? It doesn’t matter what the jobs entail, they can be meaningful and a joy to your people. That’s my story, my life, and my work.

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