My friends in the staffing and recruiting profession stay relentlessly busy and vital to their organizations because of a universal reality: Not everyone on the payroll cares about the company paying them. Every company is comprised of good workers, great actors, and others vacillating between the two.
Based on how much they care, workers fall into one of four categories. Some care a lot, some care somewhat, some barely care at all, and others couldn’t care less. Almost every workforce is comprised of all four types.
Engaged workers care a lot. They are reliable, driving forces that drive their organizations, fully committed to honoring their employers and doing excellent work. They are very involved, and feel respected and valued. Engaged workers are not looking outside their organizations for a new job. They are positive and have a dedicated work ethic.
Somewhat engaged workers are dependable but not as committed. They do what they’re told but work with a lower level of corporate emotional equity than those who are fully engaged. If a new job opportunity pops up they will listen, but they are not actively looking by pounding the pavement, working the phones, or papering cyberspace with digital resumes.
Barriers to a stronger work engagement can be personal or professional. Personal impediments might be work/life balance preferences, obligations, or outside interests. Professional inhibitors include the feeling of being under-appreciated, plateaued, dead-ended, or feeling unpromotable. Sometimes a somewhat engaged worker views increased responsibility as a bad career move, especially when perceived as meaning higher expectations without commensurate reward.
Somewhat disengaged workers are situationally serviceable but keep one foot near the door at all times. They tend to do what’s required with little inclination to volunteer more. These are usually a company’s finest troupe of actors. They can fake the full trifecta: effort, concern, and loyalty. Bad hires slot at this level but it’s sadder when previously engaged workers sink to it. Good management can minimize the number stricken with terminal malaise.
The final type of worker, the disengaged, refers to his or her company at arm’s length—as “they” instead of “we.” Disenchanted and unreliable, and often negative, these are gamesmen with no corporate emotional equity. Unhappy and unmotivated, they will jump at almost any opportunity, even a lateral move.
This mosaic construction of a workforce is why new hire “shadowing” programs often don’t work. Because the odds are that these four categories exist, engaging random employees in a shadow scenario is asking for trouble. Since half of a workforce is somewhat disengaged (or worse), there’s a fifty-fifty chance a new hire will have a less than ideal onboarding experience. These are bad odds, especially for a company that wants to strengthen quickly. The remedy for shadow success comes when a company is smart enough to enlist a roster of only fully engaged employees into the process. This requires selective engagement, rather than a shotgun approach.
Being engaged at work (and to what degree) is an employee decision, not a company responsibility. It’s up to each of us to do the best we can with the responsibilities we are given. If a job is not a perfect fit, don’t whine or retreat. Rather than disengage, engage more. Redefine what you can bring to the environment to make things better. And do it.
Your work is your autograph. Regardless if you are in a short-term or long-term position, sign it with a flourish.
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