The need to work and achieve is hard-wired into our DNA. As Abraham Maslow famously pointed out in the 1950s, work is about personal growth, conquering challenges and developing self-esteem and status – as much as it is about earning. So how do we feel about our work? Are we feeling engaged and excited? Do we have a satisfactory balance between work and leisure? Are employees happy at work? Or do they dread going to work and can’t wait to leave? If your answer is ‘yes, I enjoy my work’, then you are in a lucky minority. In many organisations around the world, employees feel far from happy, as jobs become less secure, workloads rise, ‘target culture’ dominates and employees are expected to be available around the clock.
Dissatisfaction in organisations is rife
The ‘elephant in the room’ in many large organisations is employee dissatisfaction. It is easy to dismiss this as the habitual grumbles of a disgruntled workforce, but it is only when we focus on the statistics and appreciate the implications of an unhappy workforce that we can really grasp the scale of the problem. The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study (2014), one of the largest studies of its kind, included 30,000 employees working in large and mid-sized organizations in 26 markets worldwide. A number of key themes emerged:
- 40% of full time workers claimed to be ‘highly engaged.’ This left 60% who described themselves as ‘unsupported’, ‘disengaged’ or ‘detached’ from their work.
- Stress and anxiety about work is high across the globe and job security is the most important factor for most workers. 36% complained about excessive pressure on the job and 52% worried about future finances.
- Many employees had doubts about levels of interest and support from management and had little confidence in leaders. Only 45% believed that senior leaders had a sincere interest in employee well-being.
The study concluded that attracting and retaining employees is now largely about employee pay and job security – as we might expect. However, there was also a more subtle message. Employees stressed that aspirations for competitive pay, job security, effective leadership is in sharp contrast to their experience. There is still a long way to go before most employees feel that their work environment lives up to their expectations.
What can we take out of this study? In my view there are a number of self-evident conclusions. Firstly, it is clear that many organisations need to value their employees more highly, not only because it is decent behaviour, but also because employees who feel valued work more productively. Secondly, employees who are engaged in their work take initiatives, are more creative and will ‘go the extra mile’. Thirdly organisations with happy staff tend to be more profitable. It is a formula that can benefit all employees.
This book shows how fear manifests itself in large organisations, how it impacts on the workforce and how by reducing our willingness to take risks and to innovate, it can inhibit economic growth and innovation, at both an individual and corporate level. Find out more