The Surprising Missing Link in Employee Engagement

Answering this question is key to engaging the workforce.

The answer is often not even on the radar in many organizations.

At the Canada Conference: Corporate and Community Social Responsibility (CCSR) held in Ottawa November 6 2012, I lead a workshop entitled “What Makes Work Meaningful?”

Employers need to ask “What makes work meaningful to our employees?”. Failing to ask this question of their own employees results in a gap in employee commitment and performance that shows up on the bottom line.

The gap that many organizations are missing
Employee disengagement is at pandemic proportions. In their 2012 Global Workforce Study, Towers Watson found that a majority of workers are not fully engaged in their work. In the USA 63% of employees are not fully engaged; in Canada 67% are not fully engaged. Of the US data, 23% are completely disengaged at work.

what-makes-work-meaningfulThe Watson Towers study defines engagement as a combination of employee willingness to give their effort to their employer, organizational enablement (in terms of tools, resources and support) and “energy” or physical, emotional and intrapersonal wellbeing that is actively supported by the organization.

Imagine the impact of a mostly disengaged work force on the quality and integrity of work performed and the combined output of a given organization. According to Gallup, the accumulated cost in the US is $300 billion annually in lost productivity. Numerous studies have correlated high employee engagement and high organizational performance. The Towers Watson study found that companies with high engagement had operating margins almost three times those of organizations with a highly disengaged workforce.

What Employees are Yearning For
In establishing employee engagement programs, organizations typically look at how to enhance relationships between employees and supervisors, improving work conditions, enhancing work-life balance and recognizing employee contributions, to name a few common initiatives.

There is area an that is often overlooked, however. In fact, I would say that in general there is an yawning gap between what employees are yearning for and what organizations are offering in terms of a meaningful work experience. In this gap is an opportunity for organizations to galvanize the enormous resource of people working towards what they feel passionate about and really believe in.

People want to make a better world.


slide1In their Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012, Net Impact discovered a strong demand for high impact jobs. They interviewed students and employees alike and asked; “What is very important or essential to your ideal job?” 65% of the students and 53% of the employees wanted their employer to be making a contribution to society. 50% of the students and 38% of the employees specifically wanted their employer to prioritize corporate social responsibility.



What does this mean for organizations? It means finding the link between their mission, their products and services and how these are produced and making the world a better place. Not creating spin about it (which just makes people cynical), actually doing it. In areas where they can improve, organizations need to take a look at where they fall short and start to build a plan to close that gap.

Organizations need to take corporate social responsibility seriously. Otherwise they are functioning with a workforce only half caring about what they are doing when they come to work.

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