Employee vs The Organisation: What problem are we solving for? by Jeff Wellstead

Part 2/5 - What is the Problem Statement?  According to several credible employee engagement studies, one in particular sponsored by Officevibe, being a global, ongoing measurement of the current state of employee engagement in 157 countries, across 1,000 organisations over 1.2 million data points, as well as global attrition data mixed with a relatively sudden shift in highly specialised skill and competency requirements emerging from new technologies…The data are overwhelmingly pointing to ever decreasing levels of engagement, trust in leadership and management, job satisfaction, respect and allegiance to current employers as well as an overall sense of work/life balance and mental/physical wellness.

This is often seen as symptomatic of several factors lacking in the working landscape on a daily basis, including but not limited to:

  • Lack of recognition for work performed well (63% of employees reporting they don’t receive enough praise)
  • Lack of performance feedback (32% of employees reporting they have to wait 3 or more months to receive feedback)
  • Lack of general ‘happiness’ in the work environment (23% of employees globally reporting they leave work feeling ‘drained, or very drained’ every day)
  • Lack of personal growth within the work environment (56% of employees believe they don’t have any career advancement opportunities)
  • Overall satisfaction at work (23% of all employees don’t see themselves working for their current company one year from now)
  • Wellness at work (60% of employees notice that their jobs are taking a toll on their personal lives)
  • Ambassadorship – wherein employees would recommend their employer to a friend (57% of employees reporting they wouldn’t recommend their current employer)
  • Relationships with their managers – (31% of employees wish their manager communicated more with them)
  • Relationships with their colleagues (34% of employees reporting that they don’t think they have enough social interaction with their colleagues)
  • Company alignment – (33% of employees don’t believe their company’s core values align with their personal values)

Gallup polls have repeatedly uncovered that the level of workplace disengagement hovers at around 68% in the USA, and 87% outside the USA (adding up to a productivity loss of over $500 billion annually the USA alone, according to Entrepreneur Magazine

Again, this is a complex set of variables that have a direct effect on these overall numbers, but the critical areas of importance for employees involves the following:

  • Sense of purpose that employees can align to, a positive statement about how an organisation plans to affect as large a population of a targeted audience to achieve a strong, positive outcome that doesn’t exist today.
  • A strong set of core values alignment by which all organisational decisions are metered against before being implemented.  Further – a set of core values that aligns psychologically to the human beings tasked with bringing those decisions to relative.
  • A personal sense of mission and specific focus wherein people are tasked with specific areas of activity, can see the reason why they are undertaking those tasks, are capable of delivering those tasks within a reasonable timeframe, are supported in achieving those tasks and can see the impact of the successful completion of the mission at hand.
  • Trust in direct management and overall leadership of their organisations – feeling a deep sense of respect for the individuals who are setting the pace, delegating the work, driving toward results, supporting the employees to deliver, and providing a sense of direction regularly whilst always operating within the core values and communicating regularly the vision everyone is trying to achieve.
  • Receiving praise and recognition for work performed well, whilst at the same time, receiving constructive feedback they can act upon to improve areas they are less proficient or capable – and then be challenged to engage in those new activities to test their learning and apply new thinking.
  • Having a sense of mastery, capability, skill base and opportunity to learn at speed about new tools, techniques, operating methodologies and critical facts to be successful in addressing their current and future workloads.
  • A strong sense of camaraderie and esprit d’ corps amongst their peers, both in their immediate circle, but also cross functionally throughout the enterprise.
  • Having the tools and technology necessary to perform their work in any environment, whether it’s within a physically co-located environment or within a virtual context.
  • Having a personalised portal or aggregation of data over time that provides as complete a picture as possible with regard to an individual’s sense of personal and professional development focus, mapping out their performance over time, career trajectory, personal milestones achieved, areas of failure and recovery, developmental activities undertaken, all against the backdrop of a core set of objectives and key results set for oneself and presented in a dash-boarding format that is both manually and dynamically updated using tools provided by their current organisation (HRIS data, performance measurement results, training & development activity logs, sales or customer performance data, career path and pay & reward data, specific awards or recognition achieved.
  • A generalised feeling that the organisation makes work harder than it has to be, whilst requiring significant inputs to track and micro-manage employees without giving anything back to the employee in return to help them comprehend their own capabilities nor offer solutions for improvement.  This needs to be reversed.
  • There are also far more cavernous generational gaps made poignantly prevalent by rapid technological advancements, wherein GenZ (born in early to mid-2000) and Millennial generations (born in early 1980s), who are digitally native – extremely comfortable with all manner of technology, at home with advanced consumer electronics and comfortable with the pace of innovation and change that our current technological disruption is driving.  The issue is they are often being led by GenX and Baby Boomer generational members who are less apt to be keeping up with the current pace of change, the level of adaptive capability that various tools and software provide – and thus see it as less of a priority to catch the workplace environment up to our consumer experience.  

This has left the vast majority of new market entrants with a deep sense of disillusionment with larger dystopian working environments. It has caused deep frustration across all generations as there is a general disconnect socially, technologically, productively and competitively – all the while technological disruption is occurring at rates never experienced in human history. Competitive pressures are well beyond traditional pathways and now occurring across industries, from well-funded start-ups as well as from traditional competitors – and we will likely experience a powerful upheaval of the traditional corporate landscape – involving insolvencies, huge uptick in mergers & acquisitions, break ups and joint ventures as well as wholesale dissolutions of the largest, most traditional  entities. 

We see smaller, more agile market entrants perform more direct-to-consumer activities with only a fraction of the employee bases we’ve seen in the 20th century – owing to advances in technology, gig economy working, machine learning and A.I., and a whole new partnering and outsourcing economy that will no longer required corporates to own production of products end-to-end, but rather share it out in a sharing economy where specialised designers, makers, inventors, distributors, and networked hive contributors that will replace the previously fully-owned, end-to-end supply chains that make up the current mega-corporates whose organic inefficiency is choking their ability to be competitive in their respective markets.  Read Salim Ismail’s Exponential Organizations to get a sense of how technology unicorns are mastering their billion dollar valuations at speed.

Enter the need to re-think EVERYTHING…

Couched conveniently under the header of Employee Experience – this cacophony of negative sentiment translating into deep dips in performance, productivity, creativity and innovation – whilst creating financial chaos in markets and traditional supply chains around the world, has led us to reconsider the very essence of our commercial existences.  What’s clear is that we have lost our way (or not kept up) critical developments, methodologies and tools - and dead are the early notions about the organisation’s stewardship of the individual employee – driven by Henry Ford’s assembly line mentality, Frederick Taylor’s notions of Scientific Management, or the ‘Master-Slave’ relationships  Let’s not kid ourselves – a tightly benchmarked pay check and some sparingly weak benefits with a few company picnics and awkward recognition ceremonies do not maketh an enlightened Employee Experience.  Worse, this halfway house often insults the intelligence and sense of self-worth of our most powerful contributors – creating a cynicism that is unrecoverable with the best of intentions.  

Taking into account the key areas of frustration and disconnect employees feel in the workplace environment around so many issues and challenges, where do we start with the reinvention of our relationship to one another – in an effort to recover from this nose dive and reset an authentic repositioning of our connection to one another?

 

Part 1 of the series from Jeff can be read here

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Jeff Wellstead is the founder of ex.design - an employee experience design consultancy.  

As an Employee Experience Designer who brings the promise of the "future of work" today, Jeff works with businesses of all sectors and maturities, who are urgently seeking rapid adaptation and digital transformation.

He engages with a number of human capital, agile, OD, recruitment, product & innovation and productivity specialists who have been schooled in lean startup and lean enterprise methodologies.