Are your employees fulfilled? If not, it may be costing you a bundle. While nearly everyone is seeking life fulfillment—creating a lifestyle that brings exceptional happiness and inner peace—nearly 80 percent are less than fully fulfilled. It shows up in attention at work, productivity, customer service, quality and, ultimately, in turnover. In 2013, Gallup reported that 52 percent of employees are disengaged, with 18 percent actively disengaged, and my firm, Metrus, finds less than one-third highly engaged.
But engagement alone is not enough. Our research has identified three key characteristics in people that are all needed to drive superior business results: aligned, capable and engaged. Interestingly, we discovered these same three factors are important to employees’ overall sense of fulfillment in life. Do employees see alignment between their life goals and organizational goals and values? Are they developing capabilities at work that will also serve them well in other areas of their lives or for future jobs? Are people’s passions being leveraged? Leaders can do a variety of things that will increase their chances of creating aligned, capable and engaged people.
Here are a few:
- Forget work-life balance and think work-life integration. It is no longer possible for most leaders or workers to cordon off the work and non-work segments of life. People answer email or texts at home, leave work early to pick up a child in daycare, or write reports from the bleachers at a sports event. Work and life are integrated—the reality is that they have always been. But today, there is a constant interplay of both in many jobs. Do your companies’ policies and operating style accommodate this new model?
- Reduce stress. Stress has been on the increase as the pace of change and competition has increased dramatically. Employees ask questions like: Will my job be here tomorrow? Will I meet this nearly impossible deadline? How can I manage the workload I am carrying? No matter how much I do, there is always more! And there is ample evidence that stress is debilitating physically and mentally. Much of the stress is also because work demands conflict with personal non-work aspirations or commitments like volunteering, family obligations, education, health. Unless time is effectively managed across all sectors of one’s life, stress will be insidious. Leaders can help by doing a better job of prioritizing requests and work demands, thereby helping their people make choices that will be aligned with business needs and eliminate time spent on lower-priority items.
- Sync company and contributor goals. We discovered that aligned, capable and engaged employees only become that way when the organization and the work they do is in sync with their life goals and values, when they are developing skills that will help them in life (not just this job), and when their work taps into their passions. According to research conducted by our firm over the past 25 years, up to 85 percent of employees are satisfied with the work they do, but far fewer are satisfied with their companies as a place to work because of their boss, coworkers, or company policies. Engagement can be aroused by an exciting mission, a vision of a better future, a chance to grow, or an environment in which their contributions are recognized.
- Re-examine your employer brand. Address millennial needs—and all boats will rise. Almost everyone today is concerned about finding the right millennials to hire, and then how to keep them. Millennials have the advantage today of arriving in the workplace during the perfect storm of talent management—as the baby boomers are retiring in droves, there are fewer people with the right skills. Millennials with the right skills can pick and choose where they want to work and how long they will stay. Those who find more fulfillment in company roles are likely to stay, tell others and contribute more. So, a key opportunity is re-examining your employer brand attributes and your culture to see if it is attractive in the marketplace. Have you made the kind of changes in policies, operating style, and leader skills that will attract and retain scarce talent? In doing so, you will also retain more of your other “A” players.
- Set the tone at the top. Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Corp., argues that senior executives need to be servant leaders, with the goal of enabling their people to be “A” players. When they score high, everyone wins. Ridge holds his leaders accountable for enabling people and creating an environment that is conducive to creativity and a culture of performance. His regional “tribes,” as they are called, are empowered to make decisions that will help them reach their goals more rapidly.
- Educate leaders about the power of fulfillment. Conduct fulfillment training for your top leaders and managers, enabling them to become more skilled in understanding the role of fulfillment and how they can provide better balance, guidance, and support in creating more fulfilling workplaces.
If leaders takes these key steps, their organization is on the road to being far healthier and more productive organization.