It’s a compelling statement - ‘our people are our greatest asset’ - but simply not true.
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report suggests that worldwide only 13% of employees are engaged at work. If your car engine was just 13% efficient at turning fuel into performance you’d probably get rid of it, not laud its worth from the rooftops.
While the Gallup survey method is flawed (a topic for another post) it raises two critical questions:
Why are employees disengaged globally?
At first, employees believe their bosses when they say ‘people are our greatest asset’: they network, have interesting conversations, do further reading, think about things more deeply, and develop fresh ideas. They then bring this new knowledge back to their boss and then .… nothing.
On rare occasions a new idea is a perfect fit - an obviously-right solution solving a clearly-defined problem. It's instantly implemented and the employee is promoted both as a reward and a barrier to prevent talent leaving. But the history of innovation teaches us such perfect moments are rare. So, what happens when employees bring messier ideas for looser problems that, nonetheless, may also later prove to be game-changers?
The answer is usually nothing.
‘Of course we want to be innovative’ your boss says. But s/he is really thinking ‘will my head be on the chopping block if this goes wrong?’ So, instead of trial-ing an idea to test it’s value, s/he instead asks you, ‘where has this been done before?’ Because everyone says they want to be innovative, but no-one wants to go first.
As organisations creak under the strain of external pressures employees are surfing wider and deeper knowledge flows than those running through single organisations and can see the organisation’s threats and weaknesses. While a communal sense of belonging exists they will seek to fix problems. When they are ignored they disengage and the good ones leave.
Leaders must become aware that defensive decision-making sparks an exodus of talent, or a drying up of the knowledge flows essential to the organisation's success. Which is why leaders - 87% disengagement of ‘your greatest asset’ is the greatest business problem you face today.
Part two of this blog will look at ‘what can be done?’.
For more background and insights about this issue visit narrativeinsights.com