3 Strategies for Increasing Engagement at Work

[caption id="attachment_3238" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Increasing engagement and purpose at work can improve work force and company performance Image credit Creative Commons courtesy of Cell05[/caption]

Complaints about work pervade society. Look no further than a week of social media posts complaining about going into work on Monday, getting over hump day and celebrating the arrival of the weekend. Ironically, study after study (including recent ones from the Daniels College of Business and treatises like Charles Murray's "The Happiness of the People") find that doing meaningful work is one of the greatest sources of satisfaction in life, and a recent Gallup study found the longer someone is unemployed the more depressed they become.

So why do so many people hate work?

New York Times article looked at this question and found that purpose is the single biggest indicator of job satisfaction. By purpose they mean, employees, "doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work. 

Here's the disappointing news: Today just 13 percent of people in the world feel engagement and purpose at work.

If you are one of 87% of people who hates their job this matters. The average American spends approximately 40% of their waking hours at work. Hating work is equivalent, then, to saying that almost half of your life is no good.

Why should business owners and executives care? Well, it turns out that this dissatisfaction has a major impact on an organization's bottom line. Another Gallup study found that companies in the top 25 percent of employee engagement and purpose are 22 percent more profitable, experience 28 percent less theft, 48 percent fewer safety incidents and receive 10 percent higher ratings from customers, when compared with companies in the bottom 25 percent of employee engagement and purpose.

Those statistics are nothing to snuff at. If you're looking to improve engagement and purpose in your organization, here are three simple strategies to consider:

1. Why Do You Exist

Everyone in your organization must understand your company's reason for being and believe in it.

What good are your bringing the world? For companies like Airbnb or Uber who are overturning industries, or non-profits like Kiva or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this is pretty easy. But what about a garbage company, a milk company or an outsourcing company?

Companies in more traditional industries may feel intimidated by defining a purpose, but every company has a reason for being. My friend Fred Uytengsu runs Alaska Milk corporation, the largest provider of dairy products in the Philippines. In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan one of his largest factories was nearly destroyed. Fred, one of the best leaders I've ever met, showed up at the factory the next day to find everyone of the factory workers, many of whom had lost their homes, at work rebuilding the factory. When he asked them why they showed up they responded, "Our people need milk for their families and children, the factory must go back online first. These individuals understood Alaska Milk's reason for existence and were completely bought in. There is no doubt that that day was one of the hardest days of work and also one of the most meaningful.

2. Set Big Goals That Everyone Works Towards Together

Your company should have two to four major goals that everyone works towards achieving every year.

This year at TaskUs one of these goals is to fully automate our hiring, time and attendance and billing process. When we set goals we didn't just set arbitrary milestones, we set SMART goals meaning they have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. In order to increase employee engagement and purpose, everyone in the organization must understand the benefit of achieving this goal and clearly understand their role in supporting its achievement.

For our goal of automating hiring, billing, and time and attendance every member of our recruitment, HR and finance team has clear roles to play -- but so does every TaskUs teammate who must enroll in our new systems, attend trainings on how to use them properly and deal with the inevitable frustrations that come from technical transition. Simply doing these things is annoying and may cause someone to hate their job, but understanding the importance of the goal, and how it will allow the organization to move forward and deliver better experiences for employees and clients allows us to embrace the change.

3. Let People Do What They Love

As a manager your biggest responsibility is to put people in positions where they will have the greatest impact on the organization. Turns out this is generally what they love to do most.

Ask your colleagues what they enjoy about their job and what they hate, and put then them in a position to succeed. Obviously, we can't all do what we love to do all of the time -- that's not what I'm saying. People at every level of the organization have to do unsavory and unsatisfying work sometimes, whether it's an entry-level analyst copying and pasting tens of thousands of rows of data, or a CEO having to face a client after a major error has been committed (yes, I've been both of those people). But as your company grows you will find that with more people there is a greater variety of passions and thus an ability to empower people to do more of what they love. I used to do all of the finance for TaskUs and hated it, today we have a whole team of people who love it and excel at it because of their aptitude and passion for it.

Creating engagement and purpose at work is a win, win. People who are more engaged live much happier lives, and they will deliver more for your company. So the next time you feel like you hate work, or hear someone at work complain about hating work, don't dismiss it or join in. Engage.

Michael Buenaventura

July 07, 2014