On average, employees spend 8 to 10 hours at work each day of their working lives. In a city like Johannesburg, add at least 2 hours and in some instances 3 hours of transit time to and from work.
Most employees are frustrated by sitting in traffic having to deal with a driver from hell on the adjacent lane. Add to that walking into the office and finding the “devil wears Prada” kind of a boss. Remember the movie where Meryl Streep plays the ruthless and cynical Miranda Priestly? Unfortunately, some leaders are the character of Miranda Priestly on steroids.
Workers spend more time physically at work than they do at home. It makes sense to be happy where we spend most of our time.
This challenges organisations to make their workplaces inner wells of purpose with a sense of belonging. This does not mean that organisations should become adult day care centres as some leaders equate purpose and respectful environments to mean. Far from it, this means the creation of environments where talent and abilities can be unleashed for people to maximise their potential.
Here are areas to look at to create a healthy and engaged workforce:
#1. Provide safety: The purpose of organisations is to create profit for shareholders and that is not a contentious point. However, this goal should not be pursued at the expense of workers. Leaders should understand and respect the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being of employees while pursuing profits. The two are not mutually exclusive. Treat your staff with respect and they will go an extra mile for you.
#2. Develop the workforce: Employees have a need to learn, grow and advance and it is important to challenge and support them in learning new skills. Leverage this need and harness the development of their strengths. Gallup research reports that organisations that develop their employees attain 11% profitability and are twice as likely to retain them.
#3. Introduce flexible work: Leaders need to be capacitated to manage results and not the time of their employees. Promote working from home to avoid time lost in traffic. Encourage employees to focus on key projects without the occasional knock on the door or being called to impromptu meetings. It should not be onerous for an employee to balance their work and personal commitments. None should suffer because of the other.
#4. Invite external perspective: Organisations that are internally focused rely on “it has always been done this way here” mentality. Little do they realise that their ideas might be outdated. Infusing a fresh perspective using keynote speakers and culture change gurus will impact the engagement levels of your staff. External coaches are a resource to leverage to supplement the development initiatives, share knowledge, inspire and boost staff morale. These players are not constraint by politics, bureaucracy or internal turf fights that restrain the internal staff.
#5. Embrace employee ideas: I have not come across an individual let alone leadership cohort that have all ideas. Employees are involved daily in what they do, and they are the ones impacted by decisions leaders make. It makes sense to allow them to make inputs that if workable, should be implemented. Suggestion boxes are a thing of the past and leaders in partnership with HR should derive initiatives based on employee engagement survey results and facilitate focus group sessions. Leaders should use meetings and one-on-one meetings as sources of gathering inputs from employees and act on them.
#6. Get social: Schools and universities have extramural activities to help students learn beyond the academic space. It baffles my mind that immediately as they step into organisations, employees are denied activities beyond the day work. Employees spend the most time at work which should be fun. Take your employees to movies to watch what is relevant and can be applicable to their work. Host sports competitions and social clubs. These are not nice to have, but essential engagement initiatives that boost morale, build confidence, nurture teamwork and provide many other benefits that deepen the engagement levels of your employees.
Tex Hlalele is a Personal Mastery, Leadership & Organisational Effectiveness Specialist. Book Tex for speaking engagements and to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organizational advancement on +2764 656 6174 or visit http://www.dreamsmadepossible.co.za/contact.html. He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror.