Friday, October 8, 2010

Economic recovery and employee re-engagement.(From the CEO).

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The cover story in this issue of HR Magazine highlights one of the most critical challenges facing our profession--the continued engagement of our employees.

The troubling news, according to a CareerBuilder survey, is that one in five workers plans to leave his or her job for another position this year.

At a time when millions of Americans remain jobless, that individual determination may seem surprising. With all the uncertainty we've endured this past year, American workers might be expected to play it safe.

But there is another dynamic that may explain employee restlessness and disengagement. Many workers are battered and bruised by the economic storm. They've seen more than 8 million U.S. jobs disappear. Their teams have changed and their workloads have expanded. In many places, benefits have been reduced and budgets cut.

The reality is that many of our best employees are worried, a bit alienated, and even distrustful. It's hard to keep their engagement from slipping. It's even harder to re-engage those who were feeling detached even before the recession.

This is a vital challenge, one that can help shape the success of every organization's economic recovery. Research shows that as job satisfaction declines, engagement goes down ... and as engagement falls, so too does productivity.

Having seen once-trusted institutions fail, many employees are seeking greater meaning in their work. They're looking within themselves for what matters most during hard times--and with whom to engage in the future. It reminds us of the saying, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

As contributing editor Adrienne Fox points out in her cover story, managers are familiar with the concept of engaged employees. They're the ones with pride, energy and passion who put their thoughts and feelings into action. But new research shows that "recognition" is not the best way of engaging employees. The No. 1 driver is progress.

Human resources leadership can help stop this cycle of tumbling dominoes. But the challenge falls to not only HR, but also to CEOs and other company leaders. Employees feel most engaged when they can make headway; when the challenge is neither too easy nor too hard; when they receive the support they need to overcome obstacles; and when they feel they are making a lasting difference. Those messages need to start at the top.

In his recent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink tells readers that "engagement" and "command and control" don't make good cubicle partners. He writes, "We have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you through the day, but the latter will get you through the night."

Getting through the night, when it's still dark, when everything is just a little more challenging and uncertain, is fitting imagery as we lead our organizations into the light of full financial recovery. To navigate those cautious steps, we will need the guidance, spirit and loyalty of engaged employees.


Source Citation
O'Neil, Laurence G. "Economic recovery and employee re-engagement." HRMagazine May 2010: 8. General OneFile. Web. 8 Oct. 2010.
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