The State of Work: How Can Leaders Solve The Engagement Crisis?
Crisis in the Workplace
Today’s workplace faces serious challenges that threaten the culture, productivity and overall performance of organizations. According to Gallup, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work - meaning they are present in body, but hating every minute of it. That can spell trouble for managers, because it means undermining company goals via decreased output, poor performance, misappropriation of resources, affecting other employees negatively, and many other undesired consequences.
Why should leaders be concerned about this trend? Because a disgruntled and disengaged workforce can ultimately cost the company millions. Employees who do not feel included, engaged and committed to their company are less likely to go the extra mile to deliver outstanding customer service or drive the innovation very company needs to ensure survival against digital and market disruptions. Dealing with poor morale and negativity is incredibly draining for employers and a diversion of precious time and resource.
It’s not possible to cover all the different problem areas that drive employee disengagement, but here are some of the most pressing in-house crises facing businesses today:
Lack of support for mental health
The World Health Organization reports that depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Stress and burnout are major factors particularly for those working in high-pressured jobs. For example, in the UK legal profession, 69% of qualified junior lawyers said they felt under too much emotional or mental pressure). In other sectors, mental health issues also stem from harassment and bullying experiences, with employees often feeling too embarrassed or scared to seek guidance.
Greater efforts have been implemented when it comes to improving diversity in UK professions, but unfortunately statistics reveal that we still have a way to go.
41% of management don’t implement diversity initiatives because they’re too busy
Most diversity programs have a failure rate of 70% because involved parties either do not believe in them or make them a priority.
These stats can be further accompanied by unsurprising, if not lacklustre results:
Utilizing the full potential of black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals can contribute a projected £24 billion to the UK economy, and yet the underemployment rate for the BAME demographic is still higher (15.3%) than for white workers (11.5%).
Women continue to be under-represented in leadership positions (currently less than a quarter of FTSE 100 executive positions are held by women)
In 2003 it became illegal for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and yet today, only 32% of LGBTQ+ employees feel comfortable disclosing their orientation at work.
Organizations can no longer ignore the demographic time bomb. As one female managing director put it, “not enough is being done to transfer knowledge from the older workers and learning from past experiences.”
A different approach to leadership
These statistics help explain why our workforces may not be fully motivated. Yet the Aberdeen Group found that companies with a programmatic approach to employee engagement report 64% greater annual increase in employee engagement rates compared to all others. We need therefore to turn to the role of leaders, and what responsible leadership in the workplace needs to look like.
Leaders who mould engaged employees are able to:
Identify the issues above as a symptom of poor leadership
Realize that doing nothing is no longer an option.
Recognize and support their workforce as individuals.
Implement scalable, digital, data-driven solutions, particularly for their newest recruits who have never known an “offline” world
...which leads us to one wide-reaching solution that more companies are adopting in 2019.
Why great leaders ensure mentorship for everyone
People work harder for leaders who are sensitive to their career pain-points, while poor leaders can actually turn even good employees into bad ones. The best leaders acknowledge that they cannot resolve all issues single-handedly. They harness advice and feedback from across their organisation and invest in digital solutions to give employees what they need.
Generic business advice from courses and pep talks can only go so far; that is why mentorship is making a big splash in 2019. Yet the traditional mentor/mentee dynamic has its limits. Experienced people might be too busy for more meetings, you might not know who to approach, or you might be reluctant to admit you don’t know something.
High-performing companies give their employees a safe path through new technology to start confronting these issues.
A Digital Solution
Platforms such as the application we have developed here at Rungway are simple to implement, dedicated to anonymity, and easy to scale across businesses of any size, geography or industry. Questions can be anonymous and will be seen by thousands of like-minded colleagues who can help. What this means is if someone has an issue at work or is unsure to handle a situation, they can use their smartphone to app-tap guidance and advice on the spot, from their peers. Receiving not just one viewpoint, but multiple responses, widens their capabilities and network.
The qualified yet nervous junior lawyer can seek guidance from seasoned professionals on the “soft skills” so crucial in tackling tricky situations or a draining workload
LGBTQ+ can seek support without judgement on a safe, secure platform which would never betray their confidentiality.
BAME and other minority demographics can access leaders who might be minorities themselves; something that would be practically very difficult in the day-to-day business hierarchy.
Older employees have found the experience to be extremely rewarding, as they have conveniently passed on hard-earned knowledge and insight to the newer generation.
These are just a few examples of how digital mentoring is changing the landscape of employee engagement, and being embraced by today’s responsible leaders. Can you afford not to be one?
To learn more about the the challenging state of work and how responsible leaders should respond, join us for our exclusive webinar from the House of Lords, on Thursday the 28th of March at 16:30 GMT, the eve of Brexit-day.