Worker disengagement

Are We Entering the Great Worker Disengagement?

There is a bit of a myth going around regarding workers and workplace motivation, and that’s the nobody wants to work anymore” bit. It’s a phrase that pops up decade after decade, which suggests that, actually, probably not much has changed as far as worker engagement goes. However, that this phrase comes up so often should cue us into another problem, and that’s how often workers feel disillusioned or disengaged with their workplace. And, rather than faulting workers’ motivation for this, it should be an invitation to reflect on how workers are being treated in their workplaces.

Worker disengagement is a serious concern for all parties involved. Of course, low engagement means low performance and, ultimately, low numbers. That’s bad for shareholders and the business at large. Just as important, however, is that workers should see their employment as an opportunity for growth and development. If disengagement is an issue, then it likely start with management.


The Pandemic Shock and a Shift in Priorities

A common theme that’s been circulating is that “nobody wants to work anymore.” But, in the last few years, there is something new to consider: the pandemic. Disillusionment is nothing new, and a shift in management philosophy has been needed for many years now, but COVID-19 really puts things into perspective. Suddenly, employment and income were more ambiguous than ever, and every single day seemed—and to many still seems—like life or death. Suddenly, a paycheck isn’t enough.

A survey from The Conference Board summarizes this sentiment, with workers reporting dangerously low levels of engagement with their workplace, while also reporting an uneasiness to exit their employment due to the looming recession. The result? Disengagement in the workplace. As mentioned, COVID has shifted priorities, with a majority of surveyed workers naming mental health as a new leading priority, along with the workplace flexibility introduced by social distancing hybrid and remote work. Again, it’s no longer just about the paycheck. Arguably, it never really was.


How You Can Respond

While pandemics and recessions aren’t exactly problems that you can tackle on your own, there are certainly ways of responding that can help everybody involved. For one, think back to that motivation myth. Nobody wants to work. What that should say is nobody feels a connection to their workplace. How can companies go about fixing this? By listening to their workers!

Workers are not cogs in a well-oiled machine, they are people with their own dreams and professional aspirations. Mentor Management teaches us to nurture and promote these aspirations through professional engagement. Workers that feel supported on an individual level by their workplace are more likely to put better time and effort into their work. In order to invest in your company, invest in your workers first!

Second, your workers are the experts at what they do specifically. They know what they need in order to do the jobs that they have to do. If these basic needs as workers and individuals aren’t being met by the workplace that expects them to perform, why should they fully commit to the workplace in the first place? It’s a bilateral relationship, and you shouldn’t expect commitment from one end without providing that meaningful commitment from the other as well.

There’s no silver bullet. Tough times happen and people disengage from their work. You and I are guilty as well. However, creating a workplace where workers feel valued, centered, and represented is a fundamental part in keeping morale and motivation up. The conversation needs to be less about how worker motivation has dropped, and more about how businesses are not responding appropriately. The pandemic presented a huge shift in workers’ priorities. How have you responded?

Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May,  an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.

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