North American Leaders Get a D!

Accountability Productivity Well-being


Key Point: The formula for developing strong engagement at work is clear, but both as leaders and employees we suck at developing a highly engaging work environment. Why?

The Energy Project, a consulting company, partnered with the Harvard Business Review last fall to conduct a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries. They also gave the survey to employees at two of The Energy Project’s clients — a manufacturing company with 6,000 employees, and a financial services company with 2,500 employees. The results were remarkably similar across all three populations.

Their conclusion: “Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: Physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.”

Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath elaborated on this in the recent New York Times article, Why You Hate Work, stating:

“Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.”

In North America, an appallingly low 30 percent of employees feel engaged. Wow… This is not an overtly complex formula. So, what are you and I going to do about it?

Character Moves:

  1. Be intentional about recharging yourself at work. Take a break… Move around. If you have people reporting to you, reinforce the need to recharge. Model it. Take your breaks… And your vacations!!! Never bank them. Don’t be a martyr and try and outwork by hours put in. Results count way more than punching in over time. You will burn out if not intentional about recharging!
  2. If you’re a supervisor… For goodness sake, recognize your team individually and collectively all the time. If you’re boss doesn’t get it, set the example by sincerely recognizing others. Maybe the example will rub off. In the meantime you will benefit from being the GIVER. Just do it.
  3. Work to set and establish clearly defined results. You and I can only work on one thing at a time AND yet we can effectively have a number of initiatives underway in parallel. Focus is learning how to leverage your time in an effective way. As a boss you can help prioritize and focus your team. As an employee you can proactively seek out to clarify priorities and desired results. Make results measureable and don’t buy into the idea that you can’t.
  4. Find the higher purpose in what you’re doing. The cleaning people in the Mayo clinic operating theater don’t describe themselves as “janitors.” They describe themselves as people who save peoples lives by eliminating any pathogen from the operating environment. What’s your organizations purpose? How do you contribute?

Engaged in The Triangle,