Despite an improved job market, employee morale is on the decline, new research shows.
A study by Salary.com revealed an increased number of U.S. employees are lacking fulfillment, pride and commitment when it comes to how they view their work. Specifically, just 38.5% of workers are personally fulfilled by the work they do, down from 59% a year ago.
Additionally, just over half of employees are committed to their work and career, compared with more than 70% who felt the same last year.
Abby Euler, general manager at Salary.com, said that with the economy slowly improving employees may be taking a harder, more critical look at their lives, their work and personal situation.
“They’re evaluating their careers by measuring overall fulfillment and asking, ‘What does my career add to my life? Am I where I want to be in life?'” Euler said. “The psychological toll of the great recession may have caused people to feel ‘burnt out’; where in a down economy employees tended to put their head down, accept lower pay with more responsibility, and were often underemployed or even unemployed.”
The study shows that today’s workers aren’t as willing to do extra work and are more concerned with just collecting a paycheck each month. Less than 20% of those surveyed are willing to put in extra hours simply because they enjoy their work, down from 48.5% in 2012. At the same time, more than 70% are primarily working for their paycheck, up from 55% last year.
Over the past year, Gallup researchers interviewed nearly 150,000 workers–people in all states and industries–and discovered that a stunning number are miserable in their jobs. More specifically, only 30% of the nationâ€™s working population today admits to being fully engaged at work. While Gallup encouragingly notes that thereâ€™s been a slight improvement to engagement since the Great Recession, itâ€™s hard to cheer when you realize 52% of Americans admit to being disengaged in their jobs, and another 18% to being actively disengaged.
To fully comprehend these grim stats, imagine a crew team out on the Potomac River where three people are rowing their hearts out, five are taking in the scenery, and two are trying to sink the boat. Itâ€™s hard to conceive how businesses can thrive when so few people are working to move it forward.
A decade or so ago, many in business dismissed the notion that there are clear links between employee engagement and an organizationâ€™s overall success. Fast-forward to today, however, and youâ€™ll find few people who donâ€™t strongly agree that engagement is the wonder drug for maximizing workplace performance.
Numerous studies have shown that engaged workers display greater initiative, approach work more passionately and creatively–essentially do all they can for their organizations. Gallupâ€™s report specifically states that engagement drives greater productivity, lower turnover, and a better quality of work. For punctuation, it adds: â€œOrganizations in the top decile of engagement outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share, and have 90% better growth trend than their competition.â€
Get people in the right job: Harter is insistent that managers only put people into roles that fully leverage their talents and strengths. Too often, employees are assigned work to which theyâ€™re neither well-suited nor emotionally connected. â€œMake sure to get people the right job so they can be efficient, effective, and fulfilled.â€ This is accomplished through vigilance in the selection process, and by keeping the guidance of author Brian Tracy in mind every time you have a position to fill: â€œThe single greatest mistake a manager can make is a bad hire.â€
Set clear expectations: Gallup finds that only half of people surveyed have clarity on whatâ€™s expected of them–and this causes enormous frustration. â€œUnfortunately, a lot of organizations forget about that, or mess it up by not communicating effectively when changes happen–or the local manager is unsuccessful in translating to the front line people what the organization is trying to get done. It comes down to showing people how their work and contributions impact the success of the entire firm. Disengagement starts with having a confusing job.â€
Give people what they need to do their job: When employees donâ€™t have the equipment, support, or knowledge to do their jobs effectively, they quickly conclude their organization isnâ€™t paying attention to them. Once people begin to feel their work isnâ€™t important, or that theyâ€™re not personally valued, they head down a slippery slope of disengagement. Conversely, Harter notes that giving people greater autonomy and control over their workday has profoundly positive effects. It leads people to feel trusted, and influences them to do much more for the organization.
Be extremely generous with praise and recognition: One of a human beingâ€™s greatest needs is to feel appreciated and valued. According to Harter, many people in leadership roles underestimate how essential this is to employees–and how recognition lifts employee spirits. One key reason why so many workers are disengaged is that they feel their contributions and efforts are overlooked–or taken for granted. Harter advises managers to lean in the direction of over-appreciating people, and to devote greater attention to praising good outcomes. â€œPeople need recognition frequently,â€ he stresses. â€œWe know thereâ€™s a physiological response when we get recognition. A boost of dopamine makes us feel good in the moment. This lasts a while; but if we do good work, we have a continued need to be lauded for it.â€
Meetings may be toxic, but calendars are the superfund sites that allow that toxicity to thrive. All calendars suck. And they all suck in the same way. Calendars are a record of interruptions. And quite often theyâ€™re a battlefield over who owns whose time.
Hereâ€™s the problem and the solution
Letâ€™s start with the premise that you have a 40 hour week. (If you just started crying you need a new job.) Thatâ€™s 40 hours of time to do your job. Now look at your calendar. If your job is to spend a very large part of those 40 hours in meetings scheduled for you by other people then youâ€™re fine. If your job is to produce things such as code, comps, analyses, flow documents, etc., then why isnâ€™t the time to do THAT on your calendar?
People rarely schedule working time. And when they do itâ€™s viewed as second-tier time. Itâ€™s interruptible. Meetings trump working time. Why? And why so often are the same people who assign deadlines the same ones reassigning all of your time? Crazymaking. They should be securing work time for you and protecting it fiercely.
Why are you letting other people put things on your calendar? The idea of a calendar as a public fire hydrant for colleagues to mark is ludicrous. The time displayed on your calendar belongs to you, not to them. Itâ€™s been allocated to you to complete tasks. Why are you taking time away from your coding project to go to a meeting that someone you barely know added you to without asking and without the decency to have submitted an agenda?
Start saying no.
Why do you feel like others have more of a right to your time than you do? The time is yours.