In spite of the cautious optimism being shown in the UK’s economy recovery, we start 2014 with a staggering 1 million young people unemployed in the UK, accounting for 20% of all 15-24 year olds, and almost half of those facing long term unemployment. Without the prospect of work, today’s disadvantaged young people are at risk of depression, mental illness and even suicidal thoughts as, without work, they are reported to be losing their sense of purpose.
It’s a deep indictment of the UK workplace that, at the same time, 2 out of every 3 employed people are at worst negative and at best neutral about the work they are doing and that employee research firms are consistently publishing data that only a minority of employees feel any positive engagement. What on earth is happening to spoil the excitement every one of us can remember when we heard: “Yes, you’ve got the job”? Or to dampen the rush of enthusiasm we have all felt when we arrived in a new role and realised we could actually make a difference?
I wish I believed it was just one single malicious act of unkindness from a perpetrator whom could simply and physically be removed from office. A kind of Joker or Penguin figure in the Gotham City of Life. Sadly, I don’t. What I believe is that this is a result of a deep and common malaise of the management classes: a severe dose of ignorance, laziness and misplaced priorities.
Let me project a scenario of the employers of those 2 out of 3 employees, who, having spent thousands on their brand reputation and recruitment processes, are simply failing to engage their employees in the first weeks. They leave people stranded at desks with no introductions, no log-ins, no floor-plans, no decent on-boarding and fail to see the enthusiasm drain from their faces. Or they assign tasks but no guidance, targets and no feedback, they claim lack of time but they actually show a lack of manners with no “good morning” or “how are you?” or “what else is going on in your life?” that might just impact your attitude to work.
It is a miracle that many businesses survive let alone thrive without the most basic good practices in place. And it is a tragedy that people who are aspiring to join a workplace like this are the ones beating themselves up.
At the other end of the spectrum there are some great people in great companies who are much more proactive when it comes to motivation and management. Some that do on-boarding and engagement on a daily basis, building and managing teams with intelligence and creativity. Companies that encourage an open culture, open learning , development opportunities and incentives, where managers give encouragement and guidance and feedback, and where people are happy, yes happy to go to work, because they have a sense of purpose that they share with their colleagues that they believe has some value to the world.
Let’s not create further inequality in this country between haves and have-nots, where some people find jobs that excite them and others are left to sink into apathy. Rather, let’s put pride back into the workplace by making it a decent place to be and move the bar on from 1 to 2 out of 3 people wanting to get up in the morning to go to work.
Employee engagement doesn’t cost a lot of time or money – in fact it saves hours of wasted time and makes money through better performance. Some would call it a life or death issue – and if kids are killing themselves to get into the job market, it would certainly make them feel good about themselves once they’ve arrived.