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Thursday, Feb, 19, 2015

What gives life to organizations?

My clients all yearn for the same thing- happy, loyal customers, engaged employees and an efficient effective organization that is capable of generating outstanding performance.  In addition they recognize the need to be able to quickly assess changing environmental conditions and make timely adaptations that keep them relevant. 
Lets look first at the idea of employee engagement. I know how I feel when I am engaged- focused, high energy, time slips by unnoticed and I feel productive and innovative.  Companies know this is not something that can be ordered even if they launch employee engagement initiatives and slogans.  We know it is the people, individually and collectively, who spend their life energy and expertise to make the organization successful.  That is where the life of the organization resides.  And yet the research is revealing that each year employee engagement at work decreases.
What  gives life to an organization?  What makes it healthy and vibrant?  It is when it becomes a place where the human spirit can thrive.  Yes, fear, desperation and motivational gimmicks can motivate humans to show up in body, but the research shows that without inner motivation they will take many sick days, slow down their work, do the minimum, make errors and leave as soon as they can.  Such employees are costly to manage because they create the need for high surveillance to produce.  It is also costly when they leave it impacts customer relations and takes time and money to recruit, hire and train someone new.  High turnover disrupts productivity.  Over time toxic conditions drain the life force from the organization and shape a culture of dissociation. 

As human beings we innately know what we need to thrive (beyond meeting survival needs).  We need:

  • To be seen, recognized and valued for our contribution
  • To feel our life energy is contributing to something meaningful
  • To learn and grow
  • To feel part of a community, a place where we belong, that others care about us
  • To have autonomy to say what is true for us, to contribute our ideas, innovate and experiment

Organizations that truly succeed cultivate leaders who bring out the best in their people and have systems, policies and processes that support not only achievement of the mission, vision and goals but also the capacity for the human spirit to flourish.  They are the rare leaders who know how to balance the needs of the organization to provide direction, set targets, and organize the work (experienced as control) and the need of the individual for autonomy.

Does health matter?  A 2002 study by Gallup showed that organizations with engaged employees had higher productivity, higher profitability, higher customer satisfaction and lower employee turnover and accidents.  A study by the Corporate Executive Board in 2004 concluded the most committed employees outperform the average employee by 20% and are 87% less likely to leave.  Likewise a Hewitt study of 1500 companies over four years showed companies with higher employee engagement realized higher shareholder return.

The same Gallup survey found 75% of todays workers do not feel engaged and had little commitment to their employers.  It is clear that what is unhealthy for employees is also unhealthy for their employers. 

Those organizations that support people in thriving will be the ones that attract the top talent and energy.  After all, an organization is really a collection of people and people with talent and motivation make all the difference.

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