This is a post about engaged people. This week the Linkedin Group on Employee Engagement passed the threshold of 25000 active members. This doesn’t make it into an extremely large linked group. But it’s one of the older and biggest groups that focuses on Employee Engagement.
Why is employee engagement important?
There are probably 25,000 reasons why people join such a group and why employee engagement is important to them. Probably it’s because engaged employees do better, don’t leave, are willing to learn new things, are self-motivated and trustworthy. Those reasons are true. But there is one reason that surpasses all of these instrumental reasons:
Engaged People shape the World
Imagine a world without engaged people. Hardly anything would happen. There would be no evolution. No progress. People would sit there and wait. The days would be interchangeable. There would be no innovation, no problem-solving, no solidarity, … and probably no or lousy education.
If people engage they feel responsible (and vice-versa). Engaged employees excel. Engaged citizens take on political responsibility or volunteer. Engagement is everywhere: in relationships, in friendship, in work, in leadership, in citizenship and in parenthood.
And we know what happens when it goes away: Misery.
So engaged people shape the world and the world had better be very grateful to them. And there’s no point in citing great leaders who took on a mission. They were engaged. But the world evolves through many engaged people on every level and section of society.
Some people say that the focus on employee engagement is a capitalist conspiracy to make people work harder for less money. It’s a sad thing that there are people who are trying to protect others against the state of engagement. Because engaged people are healthier and probably happier. And yes, they are also more productive. But probably that higher productivity enables them to lead a prosperous life.
And let’s not be naïve. Engagement levels are not that high. According to a Gallup poll, only 13% of workers worldwide are actively engaged. In the US about 24% of people volunteer. In the European Union it’s about 22-23%. The trend is declining.
Engagement leads to concrete behaviour. And it’s more than productivity. Organisational Citizen Behaviour (OCB) is the behaviour that people show outside of formal job expectations. OCB is the oil of the organisational machine. Without it, the organization grinds to a halt. But it requires engagement.
Engaged people shape the world. And that’s why the linkedIn group on this topic is relevant, more than ever.
Posts on hrchitects:
- Leadership Strategies about Engagement at Work. by Dale Hudson
- Help! My Employees are disengaged. by Tshamani Mathebula
- Relationships matter for Engagement. by Dale Hudson
- Ambition or Happiness: do we have to choose? by Koen Smets
- Hiring for Engagement: the Tripe-C Approach. by Karl Van Hoey.
- The one Way to kill Employee Engagement. by David Ducheyne
- Employee Engagement is not enough. It’s too much. by David Ducheyne
- Meaningful Conversations as key to Engagement. by Karl Van Hoey
- The doubtful Influence of Leadership on Employee Engagement by David Ducheyne
This Blog is about Workaholics.
I saw this amazing video on Ted Talk by Shonda Rhimes. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, she’s the writer behind TV-series like Grey’s Anatomy and How to get away with Murder. She talks about how she loves to work – she calls it the hum – but also how she got a burn-out and how she got over it. Check out this TedTalk, it’s really impressive.
Loving what you do (and doing what you love) is the right recipe for a long-lasting career. But the pitfall is that we exaggerate and do not find the right dosage. Success is addictive. So the more you get it, the more you want it. And this is a vicious circle from which it is difficult to escape.
We all know workaholics. Maybe you are one yourself. I am work. Work is me. And in fact, that is probably not true.
At the end of your Life you might look back and say: yeah, I did that. Yeah, I’ve been there. But work is probably not the most important part of your life satisfaction, or happiness. It’s about relations. It’s about who you have been to others. It’s about your relevance as a parent, a friend, a person. Shonda Rhimes refers to this as the Life Hum.
There will always be workaholics.
And there will be always a benefit of working hard. No sweat no play. There will always be workaholics too. And this is where companies should take heed. Workaholism might be beneficial. People do excess time. They produce a lot. But this is all short-time. Workaholics neglect their social relationships. Workaholics are triggered by high job demands, but not by warnings about their health. Let’s not make the mistake to confuse workaholism with engagement. Engagement is sustainable. Workaholism isn’t. But engaged people can become workaholics and they can fall in the dead-end of burnout.
Shonda Rhimes has a simple recipe. Say yes to things that are important but are outside work. Find the hum of Life. The better you are at doing that, the more you will feel and appreciate (again) the hum of work.
You can find more about workaholism here: http://www.wilmarschaufeli.nl/publications/Schaufeli/288.pdf
And here’s the link to the book Shonda Rhimes wrote: The Year of Yes.
The picture is the Düsseldorf Skyline taken from the old Harbor.
The meaning of work
A while ago I have read Alain De Botton’s book “The pleasures and sorrows of work”. It’s a fascinating contemplation on why people work. De Botton touches with whit the full bandwidth of working. At the end he states that it’s better to work to prevent us from doing nothing. The meaning of working lies in the fact of being busy ?
Process vs Achievement
Compare it to a bicycle ride. Is the fact of reaching your destination, more important than the ride? What’s the meaningfulness of reaching your destination? If you’re into recreation you would say that you’d like to enjoy the view. And maybe you will state that the exercise itself is beneficiary. If you’re a competitive type you might want to reach your target before the others do, or in a better time than before. The meaningfulness is derived from your targets.
De Botton describes the passion of a painter who paints a multitude of similar paintings with nothing but a tree on it, and always the same tree. You might think that this is useless and even a little maniacal. Many artists and works of art would be categorized like that. So what’s the meaningfulness of the work of an artist ? He produces art for the sake of art.
There are many professions that are looked upon by others in a judgmental way. I have friends who were not allowed to study what they wanted. The fathers made up a list of acceptable fields of study like economics, law, engineering and medicine. The other list was longer : history, psychology, philosophy, art, archeologgy, Latin, Greek, … These ‘useless’ studies do not teach you a real job and do not prepare one for the tough life out there, or there were simply too many people already unemployed after having studied this. The fathers thought it was in the best interest of their offspring to make a choice. But those fathers forget that children need to make their own choices.
And if you want to be certain to have a job, you might want to consider a profession like plumber, or carpenter. You might consider to be a craftsman. Where I live there is a shortage of good plumbers and carpenters. But those professions are often not on the list of people that want the best for their children. I think those jobs are very meaningful. Belonging to the category of clumsy people, I have a high esteem for people that are able to keep my house dry and make sure that there is clean water running from the tap. To me it’s meaningful that a carpenter repairs the broken window or that the guy that mends my roof does it fast before the next rain is falling.
Meaningfulness derived from others
So where does meaningfulness come from ? It comes from the person whom you are doing something for. It must be great to be a plumber. People are happy when you show up. People are thankful that you have solved the problem. There is relevance.The same goes for teaching. Isn’t it great that you give your kids into the hands of a teacher when they are about 6 years old and that 6 months later they are able to read and write ? This is a great achievement. Parents should be thankful. I can draw up a list of professions that are very meaningful to people and society, even when they are not very popular. Judges, policemen, the men that collect the garbage, the nurse in a ward for the terminally ill, …
De Botton also describes the jobs of accountants and auditors. Someone states that without audits capitalism would not be possible. Auditing is a very peculiar profession. When the Sarbanes-Oxley (Sox) law came into place there was a massive increase of the audits being performed in companies. The tasks of those additional audits is to check on the governance, avoid scandals like Enron and detect risks as early as possible. Did it help ? No it did not. Fraud is still out there. Madoff was found out only years after Sox came into action. And he was only caught because of the real estate crisis that launched the biggest post-war financial crisis. He could not keep up the facade and no governing body had seen it coming. So is auditing meaningful ? Is it more meaningful than teaching children to read and write ? I cannot judge.
Again, where does the meaningfulness come from ? To me it comes from someone else but you. If you think what you do is meaningful, but you’re the only one, you might have a problem. The undiscovered artist that gets no acclaim could say that the whole world is wrong. Or he could decide to work for people who don’t know his work yet. But he’s working for an audience, even when it’s a virtual or future one.
Van Gogh did not sell much during his lifetime. He was not rich when he died. He had only one big fan, his brother. Who did he paint for ? Was what he did meaningful, or mad ?
Meaningfulness and meaningful work is the key to engagement.