Are You Engaged at Work?
When it comes to workplace engagement, the fact is, we’re in a slump. It’s been going on a while. 2021 marked the first time in a decade employee engagement dropped year-over-year, according to Gallup research. Sixteen percent of workers said they were actively disengaged.
With the pandemic now in year three and ongoing remote work, along with political and social upheaval adding to existing burnout, companies are under pressure to figure out what drives engagement—so employees can feel better about being on the job.
During the recent Pink Power Alliance Zoominar on Staying Engaged at Work, 56% of those attending said workplace engagement has declined. Participants included human resource leaders at global firms as well as rising stars from various organizations.
When engagement levels rise, workers are happier and more productive; they use less healthcare. It’s better for the individual and better for the organization; plus, employee engagement is essential to a company’s success.
Andrew Bouldin, Director of Talent Management, Southern Company, understands this. Despite the statistics, he has seen strong employee engagement at his company. He says the solution boils down to this: “We’ve got to be more intentional about engagement… about how we connect with people.” Southern Company makes this a priority Andrew says. “We’re interested in—are people planning to stay at the company? Are they proud of being at the company? Do they feel a sense of personal accomplishment?”
“How you were treated [and] cared for during the pandemic” was key, adds Dee Robinson, founder of Robinson Hill and GT Spirits Company and author of Courage by Design. “We knew people were afraid, they weren’t sure how to pay their bills so we supported them.” She attributes high retention at her firm to showing “my team I valued them by taking care of them… letting them know we’re in this together.”
In one PINK poll identifying factors leading to disengagement, 68% cited Burnout; 58% cited Reevaluation of work and life; 42% said Remote work. People are asking, “Am I valued? is it worth it?” says Dee.
Andrew emphasized the “importance of self-care, meaningful work and relationships. “PINK’s team of thought leaders discussed the strong link between engagement and having relationships with “people who stretch you, inspire you, motivate you; empower you.” said Dee.
“Meaningful work can translate into meaningful people,” said Tirabasso Transformation Group CEO and Founder Annette Tirabasso.
Engagement drivers include an enjoyable connection along with the feeling of being heard, having a supportive environment, and the right tools and skills to do the job. “This can be a 20 to 30 minute online virtual team meeting to see what colleagues are struggling with,” said Annette. The Gallup study found the biggest reason employees felt dissatisfied was a lack of training or room for promotion.
After much time to reflect, and losing people we loved, Dee says it’s appropriate that workers are asking, “Who’s supporting you? Who is in your circle, your sphere of influence? Are they feeding you what you need? Who in the organization is going to support you? Do we see new opportunities to take a new assignment and grow?”
Annette says, the question now is, “How do employers make big feel small?” In the break-out session, participants said this is what matters most. “It’s the little things” that help us feel valued and that we are contributing, said one attendee. “Using a ring light on your computer for a powerful presence” on zoom calls said a participant. Another referenced the picture frame her boss, (Andrew Bouldin!) gave her for a photograph that was important to her. Some also mentioned celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. It’s these “small gestures that demonstrate empathy,” said Dee.
In the breakout groups, employees also said they’d like more flexibility, an open-door policy, privacy when needed, and childcare.
Andrew challenged workers to think deeply about what they need most, “Step back and say what’s meaningful to me.” Your boss is listening. And it’s not just the company’s responsibility to deliver. It’s up to each individual to determine what she needs and to have the courage to talk about it. “’Have you made an appointment with a manager to say, ‘I’d love your advice,’ asks Dee, to say, ‘I’d love to get to know you.’”
“The onus is on both the individual and the company, the worker and the boss,” said Annette, to create an engaging and fulfilling experience.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation.”
“Your Silence will not protect you.” – Audre Lorde, Poet
By Cynthia Good
Dream a little this Halloween. Become the woman you are meant to be.
PINK’s 18th Annual Fall Women’s Empowerment luncheon on October 31, live in Atlanta and livestreamed everywhere.
Sign up for the Pink Power Alliance today. The next Zoominar is on Intentionality at Work & Beyond on December 15th. Speakers include a top executive coach and nutritionist from Canyon Ranch.
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