I was reading some research done recently by the conference board that said employee satisfaction across the country had dropped to an all time low of 45%. If it’s anywhere near accurate, it means that for the first time since we started measuring it, over half of us are unhappy in our jobs. The other scary statistic was that it had declined from 61% since 1987 and from 52% just last year.
I’ve never met a leader who thinks they can create a successful business or team with less than half of their people being happy and yet, if you believe the research, there’s a lot of leaders out there trying to be successful in that very environment.
I’ve asked myself for years why so many organizations, in spite of the lip service given to employee engagement and development, really don’t do a very good job of making it happen. I equate it to the path so many of us take with regard to things that don’t have immediate impact but bring long term dramatic results. Retirement planning and saving money, exercise, diet, maintenance on our car or home. We put so many of these things off because they won’t make a huge difference in our life in the next quarter or year.
And then I think of all the individuals who commit their entire being to a distant goal or a journey and work tirelessly on a daily basis for something that is years away. I think of Olympic athletes who train for hours a day for some distant future with slim odds. I think of musicians and artists who toil for years in obscurity in the hopes that one day it all pays off for them. I think of researchers and scientists who struggle to make progress against nearly impossible odds and sometimes work for decades to achieve a breakthrough in disease treatment or prevention.
So why don’t we often see organizations where the majority of the people in them work together, collaboratively and tirelessly toward a common goal? Where they focus on the growth and development of the organization as well as the quarterly return.
Based on what I’ve seen in companies that I’ve worked with, I’ve settled on a few key themes that cause most organizations to fail at creating and harnessing the kind of passion and engagement that will drive sustainable success.
Organizations don’t dream, people do
For the most part there’s a vision statement or a mission but organizations don’t really spend time contemplating what they could become or accomplish in a way that causes employees to want to be part of that and to bring discretionary energy to it. There are a few notable departures. Some would say Apple has accomplished this kind of fervor among their employees and some statistics indicate they are doing a better job than most. In a recent survey 91% of Apple employees indicated that they were happy with Steve Jobs and his leadership. Oh yeah, their profit margins are pretty good too.
Another good example of this was NASA when the dream of putting a man on the moon was in their sights. There are countless stories of the extreme employee engagement and organizational pride that originated during the time when NASA was pushing the very boundaries of science to accomplish something incredible. And by the way, they accomplished their goal with the kind of flair and success that will be talked about forever and essentially changed the world.
I don’t care if you have two employees or tens of thousands. If you can connect them to the organization’s dream and help them make it part of their own, you’ll be leading a business or team that can accomplish virtually anything. In NASA’s case maybe this actually was rocket science, but for the rest of us it’s just solid leadership.
In my next post I will outline two more keys to creating organizational satisfaction that will drive today’s revenue and also contribute to a sustainable organization. Join me here soon for part two.
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