Why do you stay at your job? Is it because of what you give or because of what you get? I think that’s a very important question to answer for yourself. And I think organizations need to understand how their employees answer this question as well. A recent Gallup Management Journal survey indicated that only 29% of U.S. employees are actively engaged. Actively engaged employees have a passion about what they do and feel a strong bond between themselves and their organization. In a word, they stay at their jobs because of what they give. The other 71% of workers that are either disengaged or actively disengaged. They come to work every day for the paycheck and have no passion about their work. These are the folks who come to work because of what they get…a paycheck, benefits, and job security.
So how do you create an environment that favors the givers? In their now well known paper “The Ten C’s of Employee Engagement“, Gerard Seijts and Dan Crim found that 84% of engaged employees feel that they can positively effect the quality and direction of their organization’s products. It’s all about empowering your employees (sorry for using the “e” word there, but it’s the truth). The interesting flip-side to this stat is that only 31% of disengaged employees feel that they have any impact on quality or product direction. Why is there such a strong correlation between empowerment and engagement? Maybe Scott Cook, founder of Intuit, summed it up best a few weeks ago at the Economist’s Idea Economy Conference when he said:
“You’ve seen these people–the people who say: The boss doesn’t get it. The company doesn’t get it. They know how to fix it. They have ideas, but no one cares, and no one allows them to try what they think is right. It’s crushing to the human spirit and potential.”
Cook is essentially giving the anti-condition for creating a culture of giving, passionate, engaged employees. But there is hope. Cook also prescribes how to create the conditions that don’t crush potential:
“The way to put human potential on steroids is rapid experimentation. Got an idea? Okay, what are the hypotheses underpinning that idea, and how can we rapidly test one or more of them? It stops the boss from being the judge–it ends that thumbs-up thumbs-down Caesar approach. Let the customer be the judge.”
In places that I’ve worked and consulted, the best managers were always those who took a hands-off approach. They provided some basic vision and then got out of the way. They allowed their teams to make decisions and take ownership of their work. So maybe that’s the answer: Let go of some control, accept some ambiguity and chaos in the system, and let those smart people that you hired become givers instead of getters.