What I Think: An Incomplete Truth

Despite the grim statistics, I see employee engagement everywhere

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting two workplaces in Toronto, both of whom have significantly changed their physical work environments: Sun Life Financial’s new office building on York Street and Scotiabank’s new ecosystems design on Yonge Street. These design space changes are remarkably different from a traditional office, and the outcome is fascinating. Typically-conservative financial organizations becoming as avant-garde as a hip tech startup, confirmed once again for me that Canadian workplaces are rapidly evolving.

Whether it is office towers, like those I visited, or factories or store fronts, changing physical spaces are indicative of how organizations are adopting new ways of doing things to improve performance and stay competitive. 

Perhaps even more interesting than the innovative designs themselves is the impact they have on how employees do their work, and the level of commitment they feel toward their organizations — most commonly measured as engagement. 

By now we all know that worldwide employee engagement levels are low. 

Gallup outlines in 2017 State of the Global Workplace report that 31% of employees are engaged at work. They love their jobs and make their organization better every day. “At the other end, 16% of employees are actively disengaged — they are miserable in the workplace and destroy what the most engaged employees build. The remaining 51% of employees are not engaged — they’re just there.”

Another study, Aon’s 2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement (which is based on more than five million employees at over 1,000 companies), reports that 27% of the global workforce is highly engaged, 38% are moderately engaged, 21% are passive and 14% are actively disengaged.

The statistics are grim, and I believe they paint an incomplete truth. By focusing on the overall trend of disengagement, we are neglecting how far a few have come. The strides that have been made by organizations that excel at engagement would have been unthinkable 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago — think back to what Bay Street looked like in the 80s.

Above all, we should view poor engagement statistics, not as immutable facts, but as a call to action. This trend isn’t going to pass unless we all do something about it.

Here are four actions you can start with:

1. Call a leadership meeting and commit to transforming your workplace from the old command-and-control style to one of high development and ongoing coaching conversations. 

2. Stop sitting on the sidelines, jump into the arena and start mucking about. You can afford a lot of mistakes, and maybe even failures, because your current system doesn’t work anyway.

3. Embrace coaching and stay away from employee satisfaction metrics, which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits. 

4. (My favorite) Change from a culture of paycheck to a culture of purpose.

These small actions generate above-average employee engagement, which will lead to higher productivity, better quality, lower turnover rates and higher customer satisfaction. This transformation will contribute to better financial performance and historic bursts in productivity thus changing your organization.

It is an exciting time. Today’s modern workforce has only just begun to define itself. We do not know exactly what it will look like moving forward, but we love connecting with the organizations and people who are doing the moving.

We hope you join us June 11&12, 2020 at the Imagine Your Workplace Conference to hear their stories and learn from their successes (and their mistakes).

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Vera Asanin

Written By

Vera Asanin is award-winning and the Editor-in-Chief for Your Workplace. She is a published author of hundreds of articles, and a professional speaker at international events. Vera is inspiring and passionate, and she’s also on a mission to make work better.


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