In a recent blog post, Jason Finkelstein, CRO of Traitify, a firm that sells personality-assessment software used in recruiting, wrote what we’re all thinking: In recent years, the workplace power dynamic has shifted radically from the employer to the employee. For one thing, the Internet has brought greater transparency: If your corporate culture is dysfunctional or toxic, word spreads quickly via LinkedIn, Glassdoor and similar sites. Technology has also made it easier for workers to seek and pursue new opportunities. Plus, the unemployment rate is falling fast. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported it had dropped from 4.1 to 3.9 over a six-month period ending in April 2018. “The number of workers quitting their jobs rose in March to the highest since 2001,” explained a CNN Money story. “Workers believe they can find better similar or higher-paying jobs elsewhere.”
In other words, workers are restless. And while most employers believe the solution to retention is money and perks, they’re likely missing the target. Both those incentives matter, to be sure, but what employees truly desire is a feeling of real connection to their place of employment—i.e., engagement—and woefully few experience that. Indeed, according to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the Global Workplace,” which surveyed employees in 155 countries, “Worldwide, the percentage of adults who work full time for an employer and are engaged at work — they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — is just 15%.”
Solving this problem is no small challenge, not least because the question of how to build connection in any workforce does not have one-size-fits-all answer. But a good place to start is with organizational systems that measure performance and contribution, the majority of which are woefully out of touch with basic human needs, e.g., for frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations, opportunities for personal development and a sense of individual value within a greater whole. The Gallup study offers another related insight: Leadership gets the best and most out of employees when they allow them the flexibility to assume roles that build on their inherent abilities. When that happens, Gallup explains: “Employees who use their strengths on the job are more likely than others to be intrinsically motivated by their work — simply because it feels less like work to them. At the workgroup level, team members who recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths relate better to one another, which in turns boosts group cohesion.”
Another recent study, the HOW Report from LRN, which surveyed employees in 17 countries, takes this idea even further, asserting that inspiration is the new engagement. “Companies that only measure employee engagement are focusing on the wrong metric,” the consulting firm explains. “Engagement is only as strong as the short-term performance of the organization and career trajectory of the employee.” When rewards, incentives and other perks expire, LRN argues, engagement will, too. On the other hand, inspiration—defined as employees connecting their deeply held beliefs to their work style—is enduring and profound. “It’s the difference between owning and renting. Engaged employees don’t necessarily think like owners, whereas inspired employees always do.”
Key Takeaway: Companies that are most successful at retaining workers and maximizing their productivity are those that manage to connect employee values with company purpose. “It also helps if there’s a healthy dollop of fun in the team spirit recipe,” explains Dan Ruch, founder and CEO of Rocketrip, which helps enterprise companies reduce costs by compensating employees for saving on their travel expenses. “Creating a one-for all-and-all-for-one culture is easier when employees workplace obligations and experiences are enjoyable or rewarding.”
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