I saw a rather distressing report recently, and the woes of the IT industry came immediately to mind. Consider this: Only half of all Americans report being satisfied with their jobs, and only 14 percent of that happy half is “very satisfied.” That’s what business leaders would call a lack of engagement, and it’s the stock in the soup of disaster.
That stat came from a Conference Board survey, which showed that nearly 10 percent more U.S. workers are dissatisfied in 2005 than in 1995. In other words, it’s getting worse. Want to hear more?
- Forty percent of workers feel disconnected from their employers.
- Two out of three workers aren’t motivated to support their employers’ business goals and objectives.
- Perhaps worst of all, 25 percent just show up to get a paycheck.
On the surface, it’s easy for IT experts to dismiss those numbers. Things like “full engagement” and “employee satisfaction” are HR’s headaches, as long as the paychecks keep coming in, right? Maybe, but it’s your job to make the most out of your career, even when the going gets tough.
Easier said than done. Especially in the IT industry, some employees have seen the worst business has to offer, from burst bubbles to downsizing to outsourcing. It’s hard to be engaged alone, and business leaders certainly have to shoulder a share of responsibility for uninvolved employees.
So what can we do about it? You can’t fake engagement any more convincingly than you can fake interest. You can’t force engagement, any more than you can force an engagement. You can’t even buy engagement: The study showed the highest levels of declining job satisfaction are in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups, which generally have the highest earning potential.
Obviously, neither side alone can solve this problem, not even IT pros used to working miracles. But both sides of the fence have responsibilities. Managers should be fair, balanced and aware of their employees as humans, not just titles. Workers must act responsibly, behave accordingly and realize there’s more to being employed than doing the bare minimum.
When I think of things like this, I remember the words of Martin Bean, responding to a manager’s fear that certifying his staff members would make them leave for new work. What if you don’t certify them, Martin asked, and they stay? That’s the vicious circle of disengagement: The manager has no faith in the staff’s loyalty, so he won’t aid their professional development. Without the faith and development, the staff has no loyalty.
No call to action this month, except for this: Think about it. Where are you in your career? How do you feel about your job? Is there a connection, negative or positive, in those two answers? If so, where do you go from here?
A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t forget to stop and refuel every now and then to make sure you can reach the finish line.