There is a significant amount of research available indicating that many find their work unfulfilling and lacking a sense of purpose. The Gallup Organization in their Q12 research findings found that 70% of employees are not engaged at work and the longer an employee stays with an organization the less engaged they become.
Why is this occurring? Why do many people stay in a job that causes disinterest and lack of engagement? Why do people continue in such situations especially when we spend such a significant amount of time at work?
Dr. Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavor suggests that our work should be an integral and contributing factor in a fulfilled and content life. Keller contends that, “all human work should not be viewed as simply just a job.” However, he suggests your work should be viewed as a calling where it:
- Contributes to the good of all not just to your own advancement.
- Is a mission of service to something beyond your own interests.
- Makes no difference how small or large, all endeavours at work matter.
- Should bring us joy, contentment and fulfillment.
I have spent a considerable amount of time self-examining to learn about what my calling is. I have realized that throughout my career as I transitioned into new positions with new organizations, I attempted to place myself in positions where I would feel valued and affirmed. I looked for organizations that maximized my potential as a leader, allowed me to utilize my strengths and ultimately gave me permission to pursue what I felt called to do. I looked for organizations that:
- Facilitated my growth and development as a leader and challenged me to learn and grow as I worked in the organization.
- Took an active interest and got to know what Sir Ken Robinson calls your Element- the intersection of the things you love to do and things you are good at.
- Had leaders who demonstrated caring, support, authenticity and vulnerability.
- Had leaders who believed and modelled that their position or title did not place them beyond correction or questioning.
- Developed and emulated a culture of trust, respect and transparency.
I have been fortunate in my leadership journey to have worked in organizations that demonstrated the majority of these attributes. I have learned from each organization and have attempted to model these character-based leadership attributes in the organizations that I had the privilege of leading.
Here are six suggestions you may find useful should you choose to make your workplaces more engaging.
- Find out what your employees do best by considering – What they do best? How do they use their talents and strengths to do their best work? How can you as their leader place them in situations where they can do their best work?
- Demonstrate that you care about your employees and provide support even during good times and especially during the difficult times.
- Seek the opinions of your employees by asking yourself a critical question – Are you open to listening to others opinions or are you seen as a person who is unwilling to listen to others?
- Devise and implement regular systems of input and feedback to hear employee opinions and make sure to report back.
- Ensure that your employees know the enabling purpose of their work and the organization’s mission.
- Implement systems to enhance the growth and development of your employees and then monitor their development and growth both informally and formally through scheduled growth and development conversations.
We all spend a considerable amount of time at work and at our workplaces. I would encourage you to look for organizations where you can find your true calling. If you lead an organization I would urge you to review and reflect on the causes for employee disengagement as Gallup has outlined and begin a process to facilitate increased engagement. Gallup’s research and Dr. Keller’s views on work have significant implications for leaders of organizations; leaders who wish to create a workplace culture where people are encouraged and motivated to step up and when they are called they do it selflessly.