It’s been over 10 years since the dismal results of the Gallup employee engagement study were first reported by Marcus Buckingham. Since then, the term “employee engagement” has become common place. With such a strong focus on its importance and over a decade to address the issues, it would be reasonable to expect improvement.
But the news is not good. The results of The 2012 Towers Watson Global Workforce Study indicate that 43% of the global workforce is either detached or actively disengaged.
If you are a manager, these numbers should alarm you. Perhaps you’ve had discussions about it or even tried to do something.
But before you focus further on your employees, it’s a good idea to take a step back and shine the light on yourself. What about you as a leader? How engaged are you?
If you would like to take responsibility to engage yourself and experience more satisfaction in your work, here are some things you can do right now:
1. Do you have a balanced life?
If you’re a workaholic, you’re not necessarily engaged. Engagement is about discretionary time, not about all of your time. Don’t let your life revolve totally around work. Find other interests you enjoy. Learn to relax without having to fill every moment.
This same advice holds for couch potatoes. Too much time watching TV or on the Internet is not a lot different from being a workaholic.
The more engaged you are with life, the more engaged you will be with your work.
2. Do you see how your work is worthwhile and makes a difference?
Uncover the purpose of your work. Consider the difference in engagement between the construction worker who saw his job as laying bricks and the worker who saw his job as building a cathedral. It’s nice when others see your job as worthwhile, but regardless, you can determine this for yourself. How could you see yourself as building a cathedral?
How does your work contribute to the overall goals of the company? How do your co-workers and customers benefit from your actions? If you’re not sure, ask your boss or coworkers to help you find the line of sight between your work and the value it provides.
3. Is your job mentally stimulating? Are you challenged or bored?
All jobs include activities that are not interesting but still need to be done. As discussed above, it is possible to get satisfaction from even these tasks when we see how they serve a larger purpose.
You can also make work more interesting by expanding the scope of what you do. Volunteer for a special project, participate on a committee or help to host a conference or charity event. Not only will it make work more interesting, but it is also a great opportunity to network as you will meet people who wouldn’t normally notice you.
4. Do you see opportunities for growth and career advancement?
There might be opportunities you’re not aware of. Let your boss and people in other departments know about your interests and skills. If there are no opportunities for advancement, look for opportunities to increase skills that will help you with your next job. Don’t shy away from challenging assignments.
5. Do you like your co-workers?
You don’t need to like everyone, but it makes a big difference to have at least a few people you enjoy and who you feel comfortable and relaxed with. If you have isolated yourself, pick someone who you think might be interesting and reach out. Ask them questions about what they are interested in. You might be surprised to find commonalities you hadn’t anticipated. Avoid participating in “complaining sessions” as they perpetuate an unpleasant atmosphere for everyone.
6. Do you value your relationship with your boss?
Develop a positive relationship with your boss. If you forge ties with your boss based on mutual respect and understanding, both of you will be more effective. John Gabarro and John Kotter give good advice in their Harvard Business Review article Managing Your Boss.
7. Are you proud to work for your company?
Do you feel a personal connection with your company’s vision and values? If you are not sure, focus on your own sphere of influence. According to Michael Beer of Harvard Business School, “Managers don’t have to wait for senior management to start a process of organizational revitalization.” “When Leaders Don’t Lead” provides guidelines for holding a discussion with your own team to identify and unleash the power of a shared vision.
A version of this post originally appeared in the Switch and Shift Engagement Series