It’s time to take the drudgery and dread out of work at your business. You don’t like it, millennials won’t put up with it, and current productivity levels at work continue to decline. Only 34 percent of American workers are even engaged at work today. Most workers are still rushing to retirement, where they hope to escape to more stimulating activities with a real sense of accomplishment.
In my view as a long-time business advisor, this problem is driving a new entrepreneur age, with the lure of doing what you love, and loving what you do. Yet most startups soon degrade into the negative work environments of more mature businesses, unless they know how to change their approach right from the beginning, and continually focus on the key pillars of work transformation.
I found these pillars, and the first principles behind them, pulled together well in a classic book, “Embracing Progress: Next Steps For The Future Of Work,” by A. Sophie Wade. She has lived and worked in five countries, and consulted with major corporations, as well as startups, in transforming their workplaces to be more productive as well as more satisfying. The pillars of change she details include the following:
- Embracing and adapting to technology. Technology is not the solution per se, but it provides the key enablement, drivers, and support for the required flexibility, integration, communication, metrics, and affordability that are required in the workplace today. More people as a substitute for technology is not a solution. No one is happy or satisfied.
- Build engagement through culture and mindset. Employee engagement is a measure of emotional commitment, leading to work focus, which translates to productivity, satisfaction and happiness. It starts with a mindset, but requires a like-minded community and culture to survive. Leaders must embrace respect, reciprocity, and recognition.
- Show leadership, transparency, and empathy. For leaders today, the success factors include a progressive, open attitude to new ideas and processes, wherever they may come from. The goal must be to eliminate organization silos, flatten hierarchies, and empower employees within projects. Make sure roles match interests and capabilities.
- Coach for productivity, performance, and creativity. The traditional once-yearly look-backward performance paradigm has to be replaced by daily or weekly coaching focused on a career roadmap ahead. Leaders at all levels need personal engagement with employees, to understand their interests, skills, and match to roles needed in the future.
- Focus on values, cultural impact, and environment. There has to be more to your business today than making money, to get employee engagement and satisfaction. Company values must include respect for the environment and social good. The costs of these elements will be more than repaid by employee engagement and customer loyalty.
- Treat freelancers and contractors as employees. Today your talent pool is worldwide, including salary as well as contract arrangements. All must feel that they are committed to the same goals, and part of the same team – not second-class citizens. They all need the same feedback, respect for their input, and coaching to maximize their engagement.
As obvious as many of these principles may seem, the reality I see is that most organizations and most business leaders have not embraced them yet. I believe this is largely because the traditional “command-and-control” management practices are long-established habits, and it’s hard to find the time to really engage with your team, and be sensitive to individual interests.
Classic studies reveal that highly-engaged organizations are experiencing double the success rate of less engaged ones. And there is nothing like success to put fun and satisfaction back into your work, and the work of your employees. When was the last time you saw members of your team happily working well past required hours? Maybe it’s time for you to break some old habits.