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Are You on the Employee Engagement Bus?

November 4, 2012

We’re all well aware that the economy has changed rapidly in the past decade. The job market has gone through major convulsions since 2008, and the sad part is that the expected recovery has been anemic at best. Workers are feeling used, abused and unappreciated. Employee assistance programs (EAP) are thriving. Stress is in the stratosphere, wellness is in the tank and suicides are on the rise.

Employee disengagement is the consequence.

Just look at the horrendous situation in the Government of Canada (where I worked for three decades). Sure the public has no sympathy for civil servants, considering they still have better job security, benefits and pensions than the rest of the labor force. In the U.S., however, civil servants at the state level have been getting a major thumping.

Back to Canada’s federal public service, which is in the process of getting a major haircut. It’s one thing to have an elaborate lay-off process (dubbed “death by a thousand cuts”) while earning respectable salaries; it’s quite another to work for the country’s largest employer where leadership has been in major short supply, where employees are emasculated by over-bearing senior managers and where there’s a massive disconnect between vision and execution.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper, along with other media sources, has been reporting on the escalating problem with stress in the public service and the demand for EAP services. In this CBC news piece, the focus is on the economic cost to the taxpayer as a result of sick and related leave by civil servants. One of Canada’s foremost experts on stress and sickness in the workplace is Carleton University’s Linda Duxbury. Read this interview where she talks about how corporate anorexia is hurting our work force.

It’s not only government that’s been getting creamed in Canada and the U.S., not to forget other countries such as Australia, the European Union and Great Britain, but also the not-for-profit and private sectors.

The race to the bottom, whether it’s to boost quarterly results for shareholders, save money for taxpayers or address declining government funding for community programs, seems to be simultaneously creating a mean and nasty job market. People are increasingly expendable. The attitude of many employers, private and public, is “Suck it up or pack it up!”

But is this a smart way to do business and to lead people? Take a moment to listen to this very short video clip of management guru Tom Peters share his thoughts on leading people.

People want to contribute, whether you’re manufacturing cars or furniture, serving others in a healthcare or retail setting, or working to help people transition from the prison system back into society.

Each of us has a need to be respected by our bosses and peers and for self-dignity.

The rapid change we’re experiencing in a globalized economy, unpredictable geo-political events and a very hungry cast of newly developed countries that want to create wealth and jobs for their citizens, demands that organizations in Canada and America engage their employees. National governments are competing with those around the globe. Public servants have a duty to contribute actively to their departments’ mandates. Senior leaders in government are accountable to citizens on this issue.

In business, CEOs must demand of their senior executives that they engage everyone in their companies. Either you’re on the employee engagement bus or you’re under it. Having a bus packed full of enthusiastic employees is a company’s key to economic success.

Those leading not-for-profits have a responsibility to ensure that all employees clearly understand their organizations’ missions and where they individually fit in. In a period where many of these organizations are getting whacked by government funding cuts, it becomes imperative that senior leaders get everyone on board the employee engagement bus.

Employee engagement is not rocket science, and nor should it be perceived as such. Regardless of whether you work in government, the private sector or for a not-for-profit, the overriding common challenge for those at the top is engaging all employees throughout the organization.

All aboard?

Frozen people can’t perform.

– Ron Barbaro

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