Tag Archive for engagement

The ennui of the average worker

60s-smud-office-470Once upon a time people worked in offices like this. Desks lined up in neat and orderly rows. Handbags tucked securely inside drawers. Open concept…well, for some of the employees.

As this picture dates from the 1960’s, my guess is this was where the gals in the secretarial pool sat. The fellas, no doubt, had plush and luxurious offices with windows.

I am worn out just looking at this picture.

Now for all I know these busy employees were doing stimulating and enthralling work. Maybe they were processing multi-million dollar wire transfers to exotic foreign lands or solving complex engineering problems.

Perhaps Beatrice there (2nd desk, cat eye glasses, bouffant hairdo) read The Feminine Mystique and realized she too suffered from ‘the problem that has no name’ so she marched out and got a job a few years ago.

At first it was fun. There was something new to learn every day and she was thrilled, beyond belief, to feel productive and empowered. She learned to operate that fancy multi-line telephone on her desk and initially found the endless repetition of running adding machine tapes hour-after-hour somewhat soothing. Mr. Jones, her boss, was very nice to ‘his girls.’ which is how he referred to Beatrice and her coworkers Enid, Maeve, Wanda Mae and Gladys. He (well, his wife) made sure the girls got a bouquet of flowers on their birthday to place on their desk, and he never (ever!) raised his voice; he didn’t want to upset anyone lest she be having her monthly female visitor.

But then boredom set in. Excruciating, teeth-numbing, soul crushing boredom.

Beatrice, after several years in her job, has moved from satisfaction to the point of contentment. But this is not contentment that resulted, as one might have anticipated, in continued happiness and acceptance. Rather, it resulted in further listlessness. Restlessness.


Beatrice became what we call today, 50 years later, a ‘disengaged employee.’

Disengagement at work is not always due to compounding negative forces; it can just as easily arise due to ennui.

Perhaps that’s a ‘problem that has a name.’



image of 1960’s workspace via Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Employment Life Cycle: The Retention Factor #EWS2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 5.50.56 PM

I’ve been partnering with my friends at Spherion to share some information from their 2014 Emerging Workforce Study; see below for full disclosure details.

One thing we all strive for is to create a linkage between our talent programs and strategies and key organizational outcomes.

But sometimes, even as we scramble about tracking data and rolling out new initiatives, we don’t pay sufficient attention to the ‘voice’ of our own employees. Crazy isn’t it?

That’s why I found the data released in the study to be interesting in what was uncovered regarding the advocacy, retention and leadership phases of the employment life cycle. (Check out the full infographic for some very interesting information.)

The thing is that even as we dash about talking about our employees as ‘brand advocates’ and ‘ambassadors for organizational culture’ we are often lacking a true connection of understanding between employers and employees.

Sometimes, or so it appears, we just drop the ball!

When reading through the study some of the findings around the issue of retention were particularly interesting to me:

  • Employers believe the most important aspects for worker retention include the management climate (89%), an employee’s relationship with his or her supervisor (85%) and the culture and work environment (81%).
  • However, workers feel financial compensation (78%), benefits (76%) and growth and earnings potential (71%) will influence whether they continue to work at a company.

There’s kind of a glaring disconnect there! The question needs to be asked “are you – HR leader/practitioner/C-suite executive – focusing on the right things in your particular organization?” It seems that we discuss retention and turnover and the need to ‘hire the right talent’ all the time – yet – according to study results only 23% of employers say turnover/retention is their top HR concern.

Are we tossing out our hard-earned and tenured employees by failing to just talk to them? Listen to them? Do we then throw our hands up in the air and move onto the topic of “oh well, I guess we need to open some reqs and recruit the right people!”

Maybe…just maybe…the right people are directly under your our noses, all along… Hmmm…?

The question to ask – and this is how it all wraps together – is “are we treating our current staff members in the right way?”  Here’s a telling piece of information from the study:

“workers rate the level of customer service their employer provides to external customers higher than the way the company treats them.”  (the employees!)

Somewhat sobering.

It’s wooing and chasing the popular girl/guy. it’s landing the first date. It’s entering a relationship. And then neglecting the fact that romance needs to continue; even for the couples that hit their Silver Anniversary.

Time to take a look at the entire Employee Life Cycle. Am I right HR?


Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

I’m on a Boat!

Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw on board a boat in a still from the film 'Jaws'I attended a Lunch N’ Learn meeting yesterday sponsored by a local business group. There were about 15 people in attendance from both small businesses and large multi-state organizations. The topic, of interest to all as based on the discussion that ensued, was ‘Employee Engagement.’

Being immersed as I am in the world of HR I was curious to see how this topic was presented by a non-HR person and what conversations would pop up from this group of business owners, mid-level managers and organizational leaders.

Some, but not all, of those in attendance were familiar with the term if not the general concept of engagement. The speaker shared some of the Gallup results we’ve all become used to seeing and then explained it something like this:

“Imagine 10 people are on a rowboat adrift on the ocean. 5 of them are just doing their job and getting by (neither engaged nor disengaged), 3 people are actively working to manage the situation (engaged) and 2 are sitting back and doing nothing (actively disengaged).”

It was an easily understandable metaphor for the crowd to get.


…. it led the group down a dangerous path of what they would do were they in charge of that boat. The general consensus seemed to be that the 2 people doing nothing merely needed to be tossed overboard. Get rid of the dead weight. Feed them to the sharks. Consign them to Davy Jones’ Locker.

The problem, amid laughter, appeared to be solved.

But isn’t this, unfortunately, how leaders and managers sometimes think? “The problem is with the employees; not me!” “Slackers!” “We do so much for them; why won’t they work harder and care?”

And so managers and leaders and yes, HR professionals the world over, find it easier to wash their hands of the situation rather than dive deep and ask the questions like “What if it IS us?” “What sort of conditions exist that prevent people from working harder and caring?”

“Why are we adrift on the ocean in this f*#king boat in the first place?”


Last week we had the first-ever community-wide “Best Places to Work” luncheon; as with many of these ‘awards’ the emphasis when sharing the winners’ stories seemed to be on ping pong tournaments and foosball tables; jeans day and on-site flu shots. Company fishing tournaments with matching polo shirts. Hey… that’s the stuff that makes for fun reading. That also, sadly, leads some organizational leaders or HR practitioners to attempt to repair that leaking boat with a patch of silicone.

Of course, in the recap of the BPTW luncheon, it was pointed out that “when it comes right down to it, the real perks of any profession in the Capital Region are these: feeling valued in an organization, having confidence in the company’s leadership, feeling a sense of progress and knowing that your employer truly cares about their employees’ well-being.”

Hire right. Treat people right. Let them have a voice. Show them they are valued and that their contributions are important.

Although, I guess, those fishing skills from the company fishing tournament might come in handy when one is adrift on the ocean.


image from “Jaws” via Universal Pictures

More Than a Feeling: Relationships at Work

notes time capsuleIn the mid 90’s I left my position as HR Director with a 100-employee not-for-profit agency to slide back into in-house recruiting as the Employment Manager with a much larger organization (4,800+ employees). I wanted to get back into managing a recruiting function as well as work for an organization with, let’s face it, deeper pockets than the NFP where we used scratch pads and paper clips instead of wasting precious dollars on Post-It notes. (We also didn’t have our own fax machine because it was too expensive. To send or receive a fax – mid 90’s remember – we walked two blocks to the neighboring hospital where we were allowed to use the fax machine in the hospital CEO’s office. In Wisconsin. In winter. I am not even kidding.)

So I made a move. And even though I knew I was making a strategic career change, I hesitated before accepting the new opportunity. Why? Primarily because I was leaving peers, colleagues and friends with whom I had built extraordinarily tight bonds. Yes – even as the head of HR (also managing 8 staff members in various departments) I had friends; people with whom I built deep and abiding relationships.

Why? Because our culture supported, promoted and encouraged it. We went to each others’ homes and attended weddings, funerals and christenings together. I used to go for dinner and chill out for hours at my boss’ house drinking wine. I babysat her dog. I once took a vacation with some co-workers. (“Oh the horror! You worked in HR” I can hear some of you saying).

I adored those people.

On my last day of employment there was a going-away party at a local watering hole filled with laughter, pictures and merriment. While I received lovely tchotkes and gifts from various people, I received one item that caused me to break into tears right there with my vodka and tonic in hand. I received a “time capsule” container into which every employee in the organization had placed a handwritten note for me. I was told to read them (en masse or one at a time) whenever I wanted a reminder of what I meant to people or how I had impacted the organization. Yeah. See why I wept?

I thought about this when I read through the Globoforce Mood Tracker Fall 2014 Report. While much of the research is geared towards years of service anniversaries, the summary of findings are applicable across the spectrum of HR, whether we are devising strategies related to culture, engagement or retention:

  1. Peer relationships are critical to the modern work experience.
  1. Having friends at work increases commitment to the company.
  1. Years of service awards that include all colleagues yield better results.
  1. Years of service awards with emotional impact are more effective.
  1. Social Recognition amplifies the effectiveness of years of service programs.
  1. Workers yearn for a more shareable and meaningful milestone experience.

note: check out a nifty Infographic here


Those memories from almost 20 years ago stuck with me; that celebration was meaningful, emotional and shared with employees from all across the organization. Even though, obviously, this was a ‘farewell’ event and not a service award event I still remained committed to the organization as I continued to serve as an adviser and as a committee member with the Board of Directors.

The Globoforce Mood Tracker Report is enlightening. I encourage you to download it whether you’re exploring recognition, years of service or just looking for ways to make the employment experience at your company more meaningful. As the Mood Tracker Report points out: “There is room for improvement in today’s milestone experiences. Employees are looking for more shareable service awards that respect their memories and contributions.”

C’mon HR; we can fix this.

More than a feeling.


I’m partnering with my friends at Globoforce as a paid contributor and, as I should, am disclosing this to you in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.