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 organization, small or large, is comprised of good workers, great actors, and others who vacillate between the two.
Depending upon how much they care, workers fall into one of four categories. Some care a lot, some care somewhat, some barely care at all, and the rest couldn’t care less. Many company workforces are evenly divided between all the four buckets.
“Engaged workers” care a lot. They are the reliable driving force behind their organizations, fully committed to honoring their employers and doing good work. They are happy, proud, respected, and valued. Engaged workers are not looking outside their organizations for a new job and are a positive influence with a dedicated work ethic.
“Somewhat engaged” workers are dependable but not totally committed. They do what they’re told but work with less corporate emotional equity than fully engaged coworkers. 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 feeling under-appreciated, plateaued, dead-ended, or unpromotable. A “somewhat engaged” worker will sometimes view increased work responsibility as a bad career move due to its inherent increased expectations. This is especially common if they perceive that greater responsibility lacks a commensurate reward.
“Somewhat disengaged” workers are serviceable grinders but have one foot out the door at all times. They tend to do only what’s required with little inclination to volunteer more. These are usually a company’s finest troupe of actors and can fake the full trifecta: effort, concern, and loyalty. Bad hires slot here; but a far sadder thing is when better people sink to it. Good management can minimize the number of workers stricken with terminal malaise. Somewhat disengaged workers are actively looking for new jobs.
The final type of worker, the “fully disengaged,” refers to his or her company at arm’s length—calling their employer “they” instead of “we.” They are discouraged and unreliable, and often negative. These are gamesmen with no emotional equity in their employer. Unhappy and unmotivated, they will jump at almost any opportunity, even to a lateral move on a sinking ship.
Because of the mosaic construction of every workforce, new hire “shadowing” programs often don’t work. The reason they don’t is because of the odds. And assuming every employee in a shadow scenario is fully engaged is asking for trouble. Since half of workers are disengaged to some degree, there’s a fifty-fifty chance a new hire will have a bad on-boarding experience.
Those are bad percentages, especially for a company that wants to get stronger quickly.
The exception, of course, is when a company is smart enough to enlist a stratified roster of fully engaged employees into the process. When they do, success predictability increases.
Being engaged at work (and to what degree) is an employee’s 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 or employer is not a perfect fit, don’t whine or retreat. Engage more. Demonstrate professional pride and make things better.
Our work is our autograph. Regardless if you are in a short-term or long-term position, take pride in signing with a flourish.
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