Does you wake up enthused to go to work?
For most people, the answer is “no.”
Gallup reports that 52% of workers in America aren’t involved in, enthusiastic about, or committed to their work. Eighteen percent are actively disengaged (less loyal, less productive, more stressed, miss more days): they are the folks who sabotage company strategy and pressure co-workers to dumb down.
I know that engaged employees achieve tremendous business results and that absent engaged employees an organization cannot endure for the long-term. Sadly, most leaders don’t yet realize the power of engagement.
How are organizations doing when it comes to sustainability and engagement? I define a sustainable organization as one that endures indefinitely in a continually changing environment or marketplace. Some companies endure for hundreds of years so we know the potential exists for all. Some examples are DuPont, Hudson Bay Company, and W.R. Grace.
Sadly, however, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company pales at 40-50 years. The 40-50 year life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company is the worst actual-to-potential life expectancy ratio of any species on the planet. This statistic cuts across nations and is even worse for smaller start-up companies — 40% survive less than 10 years.
The massive disengagement that Gallup has reported for years is symptomatic of low life expectancy for the organization. We experience low life expectancy as stress, pettiness, power struggles for control, cynicism, resignation, and the walking dead of our organizations. If this sounds like your company, then your company is dying.
Companies often state, “People are our greatest asset.” I don’t think so. Not in most organizations. And the devaluation of people shows in the lack of sustainable organizations.
While employees bear some responsibility for this disengagement, for the most part it is a leadership issue.
I’ve seen the walking dead come back to life when they’re invited to participate, to be involved, and when required to be responsible — when treated with basic human respect. They showed me the impact leaders have on people and showed me the vast untapped human potential available to all of us.
The truth is, no one in a management team is performing their job if their employees are not engaged — and this includes supervisors, managers, and executives. As leaders, we need to own this issue of employee disengagement, and grab the potential of engaged people.
In The Elements of Great Managing, Rod Wagner and James Harder reported Gallup data that shows, among other things, that engaged employees miss less work, quit less often, steal less from their employers, have fewer accidents (all of these by dramatic percentages), and more engaged organizations outperformed the earnings-per-share of their non-engaged competitors by 18%. Long-term profits come when we lead people well.
The leadership challenge of the 21st century is to achieve outstanding and sustainable business results by creating conditions for employee engagement that brings forth the vast untapped human potential in organizations — the competitive advantage of our time.