Uninspired workforce

A recent study caught my eye. How could it not when it said 55% of those surveyed late last year said they felt "exhausted," "confused" and "unsupported" in their jobs. The study, "Working Today: Exploring Employees' Emotional Connection to Their Jobs," reached the conclusion that employee negativity will affect their feelings about themselves, their performance and self-worth, and could, ultimately, affect a company's shareholder return.

Conducted by a New York human resources firm Towers Perrin, the study showed many respondents were unchallenged in their jobs, felt unempowered or helpless, and uninspired to perform better.

Increased workload and burnout took some of the blame, along with less-than-motivating managers. The negative perception of the office comes from the fact that many of today's workers feel like they cannot trust in - or are not trusted by - their manager and coworkers.

How do we fix this? A few suggestions:

  • Hire good managers. It's kind of a "duh" suggestion, but sometimes we need to state the obvious. Employees are going to be most motivated by the "front-line" manager, the person they see everyday, not the CEO they may see once a year. Companies need to make sure that those managers on the front line are quality or else no amount of inspiration from the top will stem turnover. The CEO could be the most inspiring leader ever, but it won't do any good if your departments are being led by less-than-stellar bosses straight out of "Dilbert."

  • Give employees challenging work. Ever notice how fast your day goes by when you're busy, as opposed to the rate when you're bored to tears? Bored employees will soon be former employees.

    Are they being challenged enough? Ask them. In today's workplace we may overcompensate on the challenges due to the fact that many employees are doing the work of two or more due to budgets and layoffs. While we think we may be giving them a break, we could be boring them out the front door. Ask them what type of challenges they would like and try to make it happen.

  • State (or restate) your departmental goals. When's the last time you told your department where it's headed? Do you even remember? This is one of those long-term-planning to-dos that can get swept under the rug in light of more pressing matters.

    However, you need to dust it off and get it out there. Employees need to know where they're going, what to aim for. It doesn't have to be some grand plan. It could be as simple as "Improve response times by 15%" or "Make our quarterly revenue goal."

    Equally as important is ensuring you keep people up to date on how you're faring in pursuit of that goal.

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