I always enjoy a blog from Paul Taylor and last weeks blog was no different- you can read it here. Paul loves a bit of disruption and to challenge your thinking about how your organisation runs (as well as lego characters). In this blog, he quotes “70% of us are not engaged in the work we do with over a third saying our jobs are meaningless”. I think that is probably right, but it got me thinking as to why that is?
I think there are a number of reasons:
- Jobs are segregated into sections/specialisms where you are a cog in a larger wheel. Whilst this helps with productivity, many employees don’t get to see the fruits of their labour. In a Housing context for example, someone may assess someone’s Housing eligibility, they pass them on to the lettings officer, who finds them a property, and then the tenancy officer manages that tenancy throughout its tenure. Procedurally it makes absolute sense, but in an industry that has such a significant and powerful impact on someone’s life, it’s a shame that those working in it, don’t always get to experience that full process.
- There is so much pressure to get a job, that people don’t give due attention to what actual job they do. As a recruiter I must see it everyday. People apply for so many roles, that they can’t remember what they have applied for. If you are starting on that kind of footing, how are you ever going to be “engaged” in a role.
- People start by thinking about what they “can” do, rather than what they “enjoy” doing. It is this last one that is key. People see a job as just that- a job. Something that has to be done. Before recruitment, I was a German linguist. I’d become that because I grew up in Germany and so my basic German was pretty good in comparison to my school mates (who hadn’t grown up in the Country). After I came out of Uni, having studied International Business & German, I wanted to get into the world of work, and all I got contacted about was German speaking roles (as there are so few of us). I did it for a couple of years before I realised that I didn’t particularly enjoy it (and wasn’t that good at it either). I reflected on what I did enjoy and that was interacting with people and building relationships and that is how I then chose recruitment. 15 Years later, I’m still here. But it often takes people longer to come to this realisation.
Alongside this, I feel that we have lost sight on our vision- why are we doing what we are doing. In trying to improve, simplify, or develop processes, in many cases, we have forgotten the things we were trying to fix in the first place and there are examples of it everywhere:
- Politics– Politicians are so scared of alienating their electorate that they have stopped actually answering any questions, stopped listening and have coached themselves to be so bland that they are actually alienating their electorate by being so “out of touch”. Result: Donald Trump and Brexit.
- Workplace– Everyone wants to justify their existence and so management seems obsessed with improving services. They do this by monitoring data and asking staff to complete numerous spreadsheets. When this is done, something is rectified, and something else falls by the wayside, so the process begins again. Result: An additional and meaningless layer of monitoring activities have been implemented into the process which no-one will use.
- Recruitment– In the search for a fair selection, rigid processes have been implemented. Rather than listening to an actual answer from an interviewee and engaging with them, the interviewer is sat waiting to hear a key word so they can tick a box and then add up a score. Result: Constant turnover due to the wrong people in the wrong roles and poor candidate interview experience which leads to lack of engagement.
We rely so heavily on systems nowadays that we have forgotten why they are created in the first place. I can’t complain too much as it helps me to keep our LEAN review specialists in work, undoing many of the layers of innovation that have taken place over the previous few years.
So what to do?
I think the biggest cause of this is a loss of the company goal/vision/mission. If you asked your staff what your goal/vision/mission was, how many would be able to give you the answer? Not many would be my guess. Your employees will be fixing individual issues in their remit, but that may not help push the business as a whole forward.
I recently read a great book by Ben Hunt-Davis MBE and Harriet Beveridge called, “Will it make the boat go faster?”. It analyses the GB Mens 8 rowing squad’s chase for Gold in the Sydney Olympics, and every facet of what they did would be interrogated by that one simple question.
If you have clarity on that question for your organisation, if everyone believes in it and uses that to guide them in their role, you will see a much more cohesive, engaged approach to achieving it!