Achieving Engagement

A recent gallup poll got me thinking about the challenges we face.

The 2012 poll revealed that while in America there is a more engaged workforce (30%) than the rest of the world (13%) there is still a staggering 52% that are not engaged and 18% that are actively disengaged. One interesting data set is that of Canada to the north which had only 16% engagement, 70% not engaged with 14% actively dis-engaged. I assumed Canada would be similiar to the USA but apperently like many countries in the survey have work to do.  Source: Gallup

To assess engagement, they ask these 12 questions:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

For some, reading these questions, you might wonder what this has to do with productivitiy and ask the question: why does engagment matter? I will let you read the full story in the Gallup Report: State of the Global Workplace but essentially engaged workers are more productive, happier workers.

The full report talks about factors of life satisfaction and if you read the 12 questions being asked you will understand that people are actually having to think about their answers.  One particular area of their work that I find interesting is that of the mismatch between engagement and education. As a father of two young sons I often think about in what direction I should encourage their personal development. Is university or college the path to a satisfying career that provides sufficient income to be satisifed with your non-work time? How can they avoid the soul-sucking job that leaves little energy/spirit for truly enjoyable non-work time and relationships? Should I encourage certain traits that will help them become entrepreneurs or nurture others that will make them a solid employee? When I look at the Gallup Report  I am left with many questions about my guidance and influence with them as well as questions related to my own income earning ahead of myself.

I recently reconnected with a friend who purchased a small business and it was so refreshing to hear about her journey, the energy was contagious what with her excitement (and obvious engagement) in what she was doing for herself and her family.  Did she choose to take a passion of hers and turn it into a business, not at all, she chose to go into a business and made its success her passion. Ironically taking the time to nurture this connection created new potential for rewards in myself, independant of the connection because I gained a better understanding of myself.

In my own situation in the information technology (IT) business I am aware that I am not in it because I enjoy it but because I do it well and as a result their is a good income. I think I do it well because I have made it my passion to empower other IT workers to provide good results for their team and clients, not because its my hobby or personal interest.

It is interesting to see others in their own journey and learn from it. I think its an incredibly important task for us to do regularly. We need to observe the world to learn from others, not to judge, but to see how their own unique character traits, envirorment and circumstances have led to their life journey being what it is.

I recently stumbled upon one individual by the name of Jamie McDonald who is running across Canada to raise awareness and funding for Children’s hospitals. He is running without a support crew (or vehicle) and is literally living out of jogger and sleeping in sheds and wherever he is offered.  His fundraising goals are modest but his personal challenge, which includes a Canadian winter, is incredible. In addition to the obvious effort of running across Canada, if you read through his stories on facebook, you will see that he has had health challenges and he has interacted with thousands of people across Canada. What struck me with Jamie’s story is the incredible level of personal engagement required by Jamie to see this through.

Let’s assume that Jamie started his adventure in March because it sounded exciting, he would get bragging rights and the celebrity status would be wonderful (in reality it’s a much more compassionate reason/rationale). If Jamie had been actively disengaged (he likely wouldn’t have started anyhow but…) he may have given up weeks ago at the first sign of challenge and in fact would be telling others that personal sacrifice is a ridiculous waste of time and one person can’t change the world. If he was just not engaged in his task he might have found a way to quietly change his plan so he had a support team and it was easier, or take care rides to lighten the load or quit all together and provide a wonderful story on why his effort was good and that was enough. Jamie is however, very engaged in his journey, and so he is making progress on his fundraising, he working through the distance (despite health issues) and he is inspiring others to do goo things/works too.  Jamie is an example of genuine engagement that is not the result of some formula, training or program. Its obvious that he has used tools to develop and manage himself but the tools don’t stand out, his level of engagement does. When you read his story you think it impossible that someone like him could ever not be engaged or actively disengaged but it happens to all of us at some point in our journey, we just need to catch ourselves and work on it.

Are there enough Jamies in the world in the right places that help others become engaged through their actions, words and leadership? Are you the Jamie McDonald in your workplace who is actively engaged in their work or are you looking at the 12 questions and find that you are missing postive answers to them?

I encourage you to read Jamie’s adventures (and donate) like I have and see the genuine engagement within them. I would also encourage you to read up on tools, like I have posted on this blog, and build your capacity to challenge your own engagement levels and of those around you.  I would encourage you to be cautious with fictional works if you are taking time to build yourself. I too have taken time to get into a good fictional book or movie that is inspiring but that professionally sculpted entertainment package often leaves me feeling good for a moment but deflated when I try to relate to my own personal life. Look to stories of real people to get you thinking, inspire you and find you own way.

Thanks for reading.

Have a good day.