Sunday, April 20, 2014

What is the real economic problem: Unemployment … or Employee Disengagement

I think we too often make choices based on the safety of cynicism, and what we’re lead to is a life not fully lived. Cynicism is fear, and it’s worse than fear – it’s active disengagement. – Ken Burns
This is an often posed question and one of relevance today given the fact that the concept of what we call work has changed – really changed.
We hear from political leaders and the media about the need to create jobs, to get Americans back to work and to reduce unemployment – and I agree 110%. The job market is recovering but even at this level of recovery, the number of jobs available in the US are around 50-60% lower – yes lower – than before the recession took hold. Prior to the recession, on most any given day there were 1.2 to 1.4 million jobs being advertised on the market in the US. Today, we hover around 575,000 to 650,000 – way off from the market highs.
In our region, arguably one of the best regions in the country for jobs today, we see about 2,000 jobs in the market in any given day. That was 3000 to 3500 prior to the recession, so while not as dramatic a drop as the national job picture, still a haircut for sure.
Job growth is critical. However, in my opinion (and in the opinion of many who live and breath this market), there is a much more significant problem in the employment market that has the potential – and it is beginning to occur – to derail companies that are trying to recover:

The number of workers in a job who are disengaged – going to work to collect a paycheck; not charged, motivated or liking what they do.
This number is staggering …
We look to Gallup to give a picture of the mood of today’s worker and the results of their employee engagement study are at best mind-boggling and concerning. In their 2013 State of the American Workplace Report (, Gallup reports that 70% – yes 70% of workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. This is scary. Take ten workers in a company; seven do not want to be there, may not be doing their job or can be hurting the company in some other manner. Gallup and other analysts peg the cost of lost productivity between $300 and $500 billion annually. That holds back growth and economic recovery.
I see it every day in my practice. A once-great employee comes in and due to a myriad of factors, feels disengaged from their work and as a result, disenfranchised, under motivated, unproductive and disconnected. The reasons are many and seem to be centered around:
… Not feeling valued or heard
… Not recognized for a job well done
… Unrealistic expectations
… Poor or no communication
… Lack of relationship with leadership
… Unclear direction
… Lack of relationship with co-workers
… Unachievable workload
… And the list goes on and on …
The result? Good workers become disengaged workers and they leave the company (best solution) or worst yet, they stay (not good solution). Having a majority of disengaged workers in a company affects morale, communication, results and will affect customers. Customers sense that the campers are not happy, and they bolt – maybe just a few at a time, and the business leadership might not notice it (and if so, shame on them).
What happens – “leaders” recognize this is occurring in their company, and they seek to “fix” it:
… They throw money at the problem in salary increases— does not work
… They add workplace perks – no they doesn’t work either
… They fire those disengaged – no that doesn’t work either; the remaining employees see this, and join the ranks of the disengaged.
They miss the problem: It is the leadership and the systemic operations of the company that cause the disconnect. It is the “soft” things that count and can be fixed, with commitment:
… Communication
… Defining expectations
… Rewarding for performance
… Clarity in direction
… “Community” within the workplace
… that count.Yes these are harder to fix, but can be fixed over time
Is it unemployment or employee disengagement that is critical? …
It is both. Unemployment is more difficult to fix and is a macro economic issue. Disengagement is a problem that is more “in the neighborhood” … It is local, it is right in front of business leaders, and it can be fixed with short-term results. But the leaders and the organization as a whole must be committed to fixing the problems, and righting the wrongs.
You one of the disengaged?
Perhaps – and I know – I am describing a fair number of people who will ready this.
You have two choices:
1. Continue to be disengaged, unhappy, unproductive, spiteful and let it affect negatively all aspects of your life: family, relationship, social, community.
2. Be done with it – take control, commit to be happy and engaged and find your way top a new job, a new company or a new career. If you second 80% of your waking time either getting ready for work, being at work, thinking about work – why would you allow 80% of your life to be in a state of disengagement.
I think the choice is clear. I hope you do too. And I hope you will take control and act.
As always, thank you for reading this. – -Dan
Dan Moran
President & Founder
Next-Act, Division of DVG, Inc.
Career Management & Transition Specialists
Corporate Management Services
Celebrating 26 years providing career & corporate management services in 2014!
125 Wolf Road, Suite #128
Albany, NY 12205
Phone: 518-641-8968
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