by Nedra Chandler (8-10 minute reading time)
Last night I read all 200+ pages of the newly-released “State of the American Workplace” report from Gallup and there are some great nuggets to notice in there.
The findings are based on more than 195,600 U.S. employees via the Gallup Panel and daily tracking in 2015 and 2016, and about 31 million respondents through their Q12 Client Database. The results reveal findings that won’t surprise those immersed in organizational development. Yet the actions suggested here are not yet front and center in this country. It’s time to bust some moves. Even small shifts will move us toward significant improvements.
The report says leaders of U.S. organizations must:
- design and deliver a compelling and authentic employer brand
- take employee engagement from a survey to a cultural pillar that improves performance
- approach performance management in ways that motivate employees
- offer benefits and perks that influence attraction and retention
- enable people to work successfully from locations besides the office
- construct office environments that honor privacy while encouraging collaboration
- improve clarity and communication for employees who work on multiple teams
The themes workers told Gallup were: “we want our work to have meaning and purpose; to use our talents and strengths and to have at least part of each day spent on doing what we each do best. We want to learn and develop and we want our jobs to fit our lives.”
It made me laugh to see the point made on p. 9 that one thing organizations should not do is sit and wait for millennials to “get older and start behaving like baby boomers.”
What does “engagement” mean?
“Gallup measures employee engagement using a 12-element survey (Gallup’s Q12) rooted in employees’ performance development needs. When those needs are met, says Gallup, employees become emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace. As a result, their individual performance soars, and they propel their team and organization to improved crucial outcomes such as higher levels of productivity, safety and quality.” (p. 62)
The four levels of performance development needs are:
1. basic needs
2. individual needs
3. teamwork needs
4. personal growth needs
The report points out that attending to the first 3 levels help create a working environment of trust and respect that in turn supports each individual and team toward awareness and development in the fourth level — personal growth.
The authors emphasize that managers must become coaches and attend to all four levels through “frequent, focused, future-oriented” coaching conversations. I agree with this. Just imagine how this shift from the (awful) annual, backward-looking official performance review to this new approach will animate organizations in the best possible ways.
These findings resonated with me. While reading it, I re-lived some uncomfortable flashback memories of losing my composure at work way too often – especially near the end of my own hellacious management job inside a government agency.
If it weren’t for my own professional coach — Rebecca Johns – whom I was able to hire with federal grant dollars to support me and all staff on our team, I might still be stuck in a mismatch/bad fit job, not feeling or seeing opportunities that were present in my work and life – mostly as a result of being too stressed to show up as my best self.
The most interesting aha to me of all in this detailed report is that fully 4 of Gallup’s 6 overall themes presented at the front are about the value of coaching – internally delivered (again, frequent, focused and future-oriented) and developmental coaching.
The takeaway for me is that it is clearly time to invest more resources into serving each other internally as development partners in our workplaces while we serve customers, end users and stakeholders in the same committed ways, externally.
From my vantage point as an external coach to government leaders, I see this as massive mindset shift that has yet to be realized.
Summary of 6 Calls To Action
My summary and word choice on of Gallup’s 6 big- picture calls to action follow, with Jim Clifton’s quotes in italics below each.
Clifton, who is the CEO and board chair of Gallup, makes a bold claim in his introduction that ‘taking these steps ….will lead to historic bursts in productivity and will change your organization, America and the world.’ I hope he’s right.
1. Development coaching matters. A lot.
Clifton says, “call an executive meeting and commit to transforming your workplace from old command-and-control to one of high development and ongoing coaching conversations.”
What this means is a significant shift from treating the workplace like it’s a strip mine to recognizing it’s an ecosystem that thrives on generative, sustainable practices for the long haul.
2. Don’t wait for clarity. Clarity will come with action.
“Dive in — don’t put your toe in. You can afford a lot of mistakes and even failures because the system you currently use doesn’t work anyway.” Ouch. Yet I like this one for its blunt clarity.
3. Create a coaching culture from the inside out and outside in.
“Switch from a culture of “employee satisfaction” — which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits — to a “coaching culture.”
4. Purpose matters. We want our work to have meaning.
“Change from a culture of “paycheck” to a culture of “purpose.”
5. Actively invest in and support leaders and managers to know their strengths and those of others, and have courage and support to use them.
“If you have 25,000 employees, then you likely have about 2,500 managers and leaders at various levels. Transform them all.”
Again, my own worldview and bias here: the main shift we need to make is to be true development partners to one another. Not only must we be of service to customers and others with a direct stake in our organizations, we need to be of service to each other at work.
6. Make sure people know their strengths and how to leverage them with their peers and work partners.
“Require all 25,000 employees to take the CliftonStrengths assessment so your organization recognizes each individual by their strengths. Institute a leadership philosophy of developing strengths versus fixing weaknesses.”
My view is that there are many tools that help humans know and keep developing their strengths. Lumina Learning and Play to Your Strengths are the two I’ve come to rely on most often. The point is that it is both crucial and way-too-often overlooked to know your strengths and the strengths of others, and then cultivate the courage and presence to use those in your integrated work and life.
Takeaway Message from All 6 Actions
My takeaway is that we will all be much better off when we invest in serving each other as development coaches and relate with each other at work as human beings, not limited to our sanitized, yet disengaged roles as cogs in a machine.
That means we show up and serve as genuine, humble-yet-confident partners to one another at work for the good of ourselves and the good of the whole.
Important caveat: like the famous coach Tony Robbins says, “You can’t influence somebody when you’re busy judging them.”
My work at Cadence is about delivering coaching that evokes a shift in view such that we each see and experience our current situation in new and useful ways. While you’re cultivating your own growth identity you are also gaining valuable experience to help you be of the best possible service as a development partner to others. How cool is that?
We develop ourselves at the exact same time we are contributing to the development of others. That’s a generous, new model – it’s a vision of coaching culture in American workplaces that will help us evolve and transform our workplaces for the better.
I took time to digest this monster Gallup report and I appreciate you taking the time to read me. I may dig into some more of it in future posts. If you find something of value here, please sign up to receive these monthly at https://www.cadenceinc.us/news/
Please share/forward to your friends and associates who might benefit from the insights here and let me know what you are noticing in your own experience at your workplace. I need to hear.
A bit about me: I work primarily with government clients and their partners as a professional coach or third party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.