Wedding Bells for Underemployment & Employee Disengagement!
It is quite possibly the biggest wedding of all time. Millions are coming.
Have you joined the registry?
Our country is in the midst of the largest restructuring of work since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The growing disappearance of task work is creating a crisis of monumental proportions and we can see it in the numbers. A wide variety of surveys indicate that underemployment impacts about half of our nation’s workers and 87% of the world’s employees are caught in varying forms of disengagement.
As we conducted research for my latest book, The Workplace Engagement Solution(Career Press), it became clear that growing underemployment and persistent disengagement are deeply connected. First, the industrial-based workplace thrived on the pursuit of security and survival. The emerging workplace thrives on change. Many years ago, futurist Alvin Toffler predicted we would that most of today’s workers would be in a state of “future shock” which he described as a paralysis brought on by trying to absorb too much change in too short a period of time. But, Toffler did not clearly predict the enormous benefits of the changes taking place right now.
Technology has always offered us new forms of freedom. However, mixing freedom with our livelihood produces big gobs of fear, especially among workers that are not especially creative and adaptive. Creativity and adaptability are learnable skills. But, for those who don’t believe that, they will hang on to obsolete work to the bitter end.
The great opportunities of doing more interesting work, of becoming far more impactful in how we make a living is, in many ways, being obscured by our political leaders. Instead of telling us to take responsibility and learn how to change, promises of bringing back old work persist and right now, hope is the last thing we need.
It is time to reinvent how we work. It is time to learn how to change our selves. The personal change process requires new forms of courage. Without that, instead of using technology to provide the freedom to do exactly what we most want to do with our lives, we will use it to check out. Here in Los Angeles, we see checked-out drivers every single minute of the day, driving their 3-ton sport utilities without looking at the road. The image is rather apt for those of us who work too frightened to look at the road ahead and to make new plans.
As jobs come and go more quickly, as industries rise and fall with increasing regularity, the opportunities for individuals and employers require certain fundamental and yet seismic changes.
Build Our Ability to Change
This one begins by developing a compelling mission, vision, and purpose. As technology disrupts all forms of old work, this is the time that defining the work that we love or becoming the kind of employer that the best talent aspires to join. Without using what is in front of us as a vital turning point, we will continue doing the aimless pursuit of clocking in & clocking out. In our programs, time and time again, I see that when anyone defines the work that is meaningful to them, the willingness to change also grows. This isn’t the time to pursue another job, just like the one we hated. This is the time to elevate, to raise our heads, and to finally engage.
No one is immune to the need. For example, if 87% of the world’s workers are disengaged, odds are high that many CEOs are also checked-out. How many times does a CEO go to human resources and tell them to “fix the engagement problem?” By the time he or she hits the door, the CEO is disengaged from leading the culture. This is common-sense, right? But, it happens every single day.
For most employers, it is a lost cause to try to solve an engagement problem by recruiting from a talent pool of 13%. It is far wiser to build engaged talent.
Build Connectivity Skills
Let’s stop calling them “soft skills!” Because the most important skills for connectivity require a bit of courage to develop.
As the speed of change continues to pick up, the ability to fluidly and graciously connect with others becomes more important every day.
Connectivity skills include base sales training, consultative sales or question-driven sales, which is simply asking the right questions to define a stakeholder’s needs and expectations. We want to build the ability to listen, to look someone in the eye, to pay attention.
Our need for mentorship grows every day. Connectivity skills include defining what we need for proper growth, identifying mentors who could give that to us, and reaching out. Asking for help isn’t for sissies! It is normal and necessary for our success. Let’s take about basic life desire. For many of us, that could include having a loving, sustainable and healthy love relationship. Don’t go to single friends in how to find that! Find people who are in lengthy, successful and loving relationships. We can learn more from mentors in shorter periods of time.
Building effective support systems represent the most important aspect of connectivity skills. Many of us don’t define what we most want to do with our lives because we believe the right people will not help us. But, once we define that healthy vision, our success almost solely relies on the quality of help we get. This is also a learnable skill.
Active Learning is the single most important trait to look for in all employees. Active Learners don’t become obsolete. They grow and they bring growth to the organization.
For me, developing The Workplace Engagement Solution became a watershed learning experience. Our country is at a turning point. We are a bit too arrogant and self-absorbed to regularly look for successful role modeling in other countries. For example, in the United States, the moment someone becomes obsolete, we lay that person off. In Germany, robotics are used more frequently than in America. But, underemployment isn’t even heard of. This is because German manufacturers continually train their employees to become valuable in the new roles.
All of us have difficulty with personal change!!! We are at the beginning of a total retooling of Inspired Work with a radical new business model and a full digital platform. It is terrifying to reinvent a business that I’ve led for over 28 years. But, I do have courage, which means taking action no matter what I’m feeling. I do look for signs however. For years, I have viewed Kathryn Graham as one of the great role models. When her husband committed suicide she took over The Washington Post, just as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate threatened the very future of the paper. One of my clients called recently and asked if I would like to have Ms. Graham’s person desk. The next day it was moved into my office. I’m writing this article at the same desk that publishing’s most unexpected shitkicker used to use every day.
That is enough for me!
What is enough for you?
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