By Tim Cole
There’s a storm brewing in the U.S. Workforce.
And the reality is the cyclone sweeping this country is fully global in nature – and building to cataclysmic proportions.
Employee disengagement and the requisite after-effects aren’t just robbing our economy; they threaten our future and will be multi-generational in scope.
The segment of the work force most impacted – the millennials. Last year Gallup released what may be the most definitive study of that age group and the results are staggering.
Consider that in a survey with over 1 million respondents, only 29 percent report they remain engaged in their field of choice and 50% plan to leave their place of employment in the next year. This from a group that already constitutes 38 percent of the work force – and 75 percent by 2025.
Similar studies suggest the impact of overall disengagement reaches $550 billion in this country alone. The causes are many but two stand out immediately.
The first – the simple impact of employees knowing (or not knowing) what is expected of them in their role. Though assumptions of free-spirited millennials embracing “freedom” is there – the larger reality is people who know job expectations are, in fact, more engaged.
The second – accountability. The Gallup study reports 56 percent of those actually held accountable for their job are engaged – roughly double the 29 percent average for millennials.
But this may speak to a larger opportunity – one that addresses the glaring “Millennial Factor” and more.
An argument can be made that one of the most important antecedents to employee disengagement does begin with the simple concept of Personal Accountability.
Its foundational premise – many wander because they lack direction. Many lack direction because the cardinal points for their career are introduced by only one source – their company.
Metaphorically – this is akin to seeking all of your financial and estate planning advice from your stockbroker – or better yet, going to your local butcher for counsel on your new Vegan diet.
The organization’s goals are sustainable profitability at the lowest possible costs. The employees’ career goals can – and often are – quite different.
In a world where change is the only constant, those employees who rely on career direction from their company are at risk. The company, the department, and the manager can and will shift – again and again and again. More important, the data suggests the traditional approach is not only a recipe for company and industry disaster – but for the employees who are charged with driving that productivity.
Disengagement is rising. What we’re doing is designed for a future that no longer exists.
New Thinking to an Old Problem
In a world of constant organizational change the only definitive solution may lay in empowering individuals with a sense of direction in charting their own course – effectively charging them with becoming the CEO of their career.
This demands uncoupling at least somewhat from the mother ship – and effectively saying to employees, “We can offer you tools….but it is your career.”
There are four cardinal points that may offer legitimate and sustainable purpose and direction – and help distinguish engaged employees from the masses. Those who understand them, master them, and commit to their guidance over the course of their career can do more than survive the storm – they can thrive.
In my own career journey through thirty mergers/acquisitions and restructures I found markers – even as I watched thousands swept away or – worse yet, become one of the “walking dead” who are left to suffer a protracted fate. Those markers were not company issued.
The Career Compass directional points were remarkably simple – but incredibly powerful. They are:
• Personal Accountability. The lodestar for your compass. When you go to work for a company, you’re marketing one brand and that brand is you. Your strategy and tactics have to support marketing that brand or you’re always going to be playing catch-up.
• People. Working together as an interdependent team, taking care of one another, communicating, making sure there are clear expectations of what we need to do and when we need to do it.
• Process. The way your organization really works. How are decisions made? What are the political nuances?
• Perspective. Moving and constantly adapting to your environment.
There may be a GPS system for a generation desperately in search of more than company or corporate speak – but it will begin with a compass.
There’s a storm brewing in the U.S. Workforce.
There’s also a guide to navigate that storm.
Tim Cole is the founder and CEO of The Compass Alliance. His book, “The Compass Solution: A Guide to Winning Your Career,” offers practical direction to both senior leaders and junior employees on how to cultivate a rich culture – and ensure a significant work experience.