It’s no secret that there’s a lot of unhappiness in the work force today. As companies have downsized, the employees who remain labor with more work, longer hours, and higher stress. All while suffering paranoia about whether the axe is going to chop them next.
This is not a successful model — for either businesses or the people who work for them.
“Employee satisfaction is at an all-time low,” says Kevin Kruse, expert on leadership, employee engagement, and business excellence. “This is a crisis for business because it hurts profits and stock prices. It’s a crisis for individuals because it impacts their health and relationships.”
Kruse speaks at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s February Business Before Business Breakfast on Wednesday, February 15, at 7:30 a.m. His talk is titled, “Re: Engage! How Leaders Gain Emotional Commitment through Growth, Recognition, and Trust.”
Kruse says he will discuss how growth, recognition, and trust are the three secrets to generating massive employee engagement based on his own experience. Kruse, winner of Pennsylvania’s Best Places to Work Award in 2006 for his company Axiom, a medical education provider, sold the company to Axis Healthcare about four years ago. He is also the co-author of, “We: How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement.” The book was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller.
As Kruse and co-author Rudy Karsan point out in the book, it’s not only the economy that has impacted the workplace — it’s been deteriorating for a long time.
“In January of 2010, the Conference Board released a report revealing that only 45 percent of workers in the United States were satisfied with their jobs, which is the lowest level in the 23-year history of the poll,” Kruse and Karsan write. “This dissatisfaction is seen across all ages, income levels, and job types. Despite the presence of the Great Recession, their analysis concludes that the decline of job satisfaction is neither cyclical nor correlated to the economy. The downward trend has been steady and steep, representing a 26 percent drop in satisfaction since 1987.”
“The external factors, the culture or environment in which we work, is most shaped by our immediate managers, or leaders,” they write. “What universally drives engagement are leaders who foster growth and development, recognition and appreciation, and trust and confidence. Less universal but also prevalent are the engagement factors of teamwork, communication, future vision, corporate responsibility, and quality.”
The information in “We” is based on research from Kenexa, a company that conducts employee engagement and opinion surveys for more than 10 million workers in over 150 countries each year.
Karsan is the chairman and CEO of Kenexa, which he co-founded in 1987. The company, which has more than 2,000 employees with offices in 20 countries, works with organizations to both hire the best individual for each job and to create work environments that maximize employee engagement. Kruse is a former partner at Kenexa.
Kruse, 43, a resident of Richboro, PA, is principal of the Kruse Group. He started his first company — a computer game software developer — after graduating from Rutgers. He then started a human resources firm, which he sold to Kenexa. He left Kenexa in 2003 to start Axiom.
Kruse, whose father was in the aluminum and brass business and mother was an office worker, is also a member of angel investing firm, Delaware Crossing, is co-owner of Team Capital Bank, and builds libraries in Asia with the Library Project.
In the following excerpts from “We,” Kruse and Karsan introduce the “We Test” and the concept of employee engagement:
You can tell a lot about an organization’s culture and whether workers are fully engaged in their jobs by how often they use the word we as opposed to they, our, or even I.
Do you say, “I’m the assistant manager on Jane’s team” or “I am the manager for our team?”
Do you say, “I had the best quarter so far; sales were up 20 percent,” or “Our team had the best quarter so far; sales were up 20 percent?”
You can even hear the difference when people complain about their jobs. A disengaged customer service rep might say, “Work sucks. They haven’t filled the open positions yet so I’m handling way too many calls.”
A fully engaged customer service rep might comment, “Work sucks lately. Our recruiting efforts haven’t been very effective so we’re handling more than calls than normal.”
Nothing is more important for a person or an organization than full engagement. Of course, everybody already knows they should be happy at work. But engagement is different from happiness.
Being fully engaged means you are motivated to give the extra effort that advances the goals of your employer. Your job might be tough, and it might be stressful, but when you are fully engaged you want to do it; you want to go the extra mile.
Does this seem unrealistic, or like something you can only find when you have your dream job? If you’re a recent graduate, you might be thinking, “Heck, I’d just be grateful for any job right now.” If you’re a manager, you might think, “Fully engaged? I’d just like my team to show up on time!”
But how often do you actively think about your own career engagement? If you’re a manager, how often do you sit down and think about the engagement of your direct reports?
As an employee of your company, leader of your team, and vital member of your family and circle of friends, you have a moral obligation to get to full engagement, and to fully engage those you lead. Unless of course you just don’t care about your health, your marriage, or your kids.
Step Right Up!. “Step right up and gather round,” the 19th-century traveling medicine man shouted. “Have I got an ointment just for you! And for you and you! The contents of this bottle were made with the venom from 50 rattlesnakes. Sir, rub three drops on your elbows and knees and your joint pain will disappear. Sir, I say Sir! Are you hard of hearing? One drop in each ear will fix you right up. And Madame, for your unique feminine ailments…”
Today’s snake oil salesmen have moved the pitch from the back of a wagon to web sites and infomercials. Many people now pay for books, audio programs, or DVDs to learn some secret that they believe will bring them health, wealth, and love. We all seem to want to lose weight, and mate, make money, and of course, live happily ever after. And in this chapter, we give you powerful information that can actually help you achieve all this and more. Like the snake oil salesmen, our claims are bold; they will change your life.
But what we are offering isn’t snake oil and it doesn’t come in a bottle. It’s not a secret either; it’s been proven in hundreds of rigorous studies. Quite simply, we are selling the idea that your job matters. More specifically, how engaged you are at work counts more than you may realize.
But before we prove how essential engagement at work is to you, we use our best carnival barker voice to summon you to step right up and see what’s possible:
Want to lose weight? Be fully engaged at work.
Want to live longer? Be fully engaged at work.
Want a better marriage? Be fully engaged at work.
Want to be a better parent? Be fully engaged at work.
Want to achieve inner happiness? Be fully engaged at work.
Hard to believe? Read on.
Spillover and Crossover. Kevin once received what he considers to be the ultimate work compliment. It didn’t actually come from a colleague — it came from the wife of one of his team members.
She said, “I really want to thank you. You made my marriage better.” Now, at the time Kevin didn’t know much about the notion of spillover so he was a bit confused and speechless. “Paul used to be such a grump,” she continued. “Since going to work for you he’s like a new man. I actually like having him around the house now.”
You have a bad day at work and come home and kick the dog. That’s the classic example of what psychologists call the spillover effect. This implies that your work-related emotions spill over into other areas of your life. It’s easy to understand and even if you don’t have a dog, it’s probably an experience with which you’re familiar.
Similar to the spillover effect is the crossover effect. That’s when one person’s emotions or attitudes “crossover” and affect another person. It’s not something most of us think about, and is a bit more complicated than the spillover scenario. It refers to what happens when you have a bad day at work, come home, and your spouse kicks the dog.
Work and family are the two major domains in most people’s lives, but many people think when they go home, they just “leave work at the office.” Others watch the final minutes pass just before 5 p.m., tick tock tick tock, until their official workday ends. But your job cannot be isolated within a defined time slot, separate from the rest of your life. Even if you leave the paperwork on your desk and silence your mobile phone at night, you and your job are still together in surprising ways.
Your Job and Your Health. In a 2009 study, researchers showed a direct link between managerial leadership and ischemic heart disease. They studied 3,122 men who lived near Stockholm, Sweden, and asked them to rate their bosses using a 10-question survey.
They then tracked them for the next 10 years to see which men in the study group wound up hospitalized for a heart-disease related event such as a heart attack or stroke. Using language that is typically reserved for pharmaceutical trials, the investigators noted a “dose-response relationship,” in which people who rated their bosses poorly but still remained with their employer for four or more years were the most at risk.
In summary, the study found that men who worked for effective leaders were about one-third to one-half as likely to be hospitalized from heart disease as those who were dissatisfied with their employers. Or, to put it another way, working for a bad boss might increase your risk of heart attack by 50 percent.
In another study, six researchers in Finland wanted to see if your job could actually kill you. Of course, they probably wouldn’t describe their study that way. They would say they wanted to investigate the links between certain work elements and cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and cardiovascular mortality (i.e., death from heart attack, stroke, or other heart disease). They began the study in 1973 and surveyed 812 employees and conducted health checks after five and 10 years. Then they watched the participants until 2001 — 27 years from the start of the study — to see who of their subjects died from a cardiac event.
In results published in the esteemed British Medical Journal, they revealed that employees who were dissatisfied with their compensation, recognition, and career opportunities had a BMI that was 0.6 higher than those who were satisfied with their rewards. This equates to about an extra five pounds on a person of average height.
More significant was the finding that workers who were dissatisfied were also 2.4 times more likely to die from a cardiac event. To put this into perspective, smoking cigarets makes you two to four times more likely to develop heart disease. If you think smoking is harmful to your health, how about a bad job?
Your Job and Your Quality of Life. After seeing how your job impacts your relationship and your health, you might assume that your job also impacts your overall quality of life. You’d be right. The link between job satisfaction and life satisfaction has been studied frequently since the mid-1950s, but with a wide range of results. It wasn’t until 1989 that researchers published a meta-analysis that looked at results from 34 different studies, with a total sample size of 19,811 workers. This definitive analysis confirmed that there is a strong positive correlation between your job and life satisfaction.
Keep in mind, though, that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. So psychologists at Cornell University set out to answer the deeper question: Did job satisfaction cause life satisfaction or was it the other way around? What other factors were at play? Indeed, they found that the link goes both ways, but the link was stronger in the direction of job satisfaction influencing life satisfaction. As to what drives job satisfaction, they looked at a range of factors including hours worked, job tenure, wages paid, effort required, promotion opportunities, and working conditions. But the factors that had a substantial effect on levels of satisfaction were the intrinsic factors, such as having autonomy, utilizing one’s strengths, learning new things, and having control over how to get the job done.
Believe Us Now? We’ve just seen how we all take on multiple roles in life, which combine to form our unique identities. Family and work are two major domains, but too often we don’t realize just how important work is in shaping who we are on a day-to-day basis. Because of the psychological notions of spillover and crossover, our feelings at work impact our behaviors outside of work, thereby impacting our loved ones.
Simply put, you can’t box up your job and keep it separate from the rest of your life. It doesn’t work that way. Want better health? Get a job that vitalizes you. Want a passionate marriage? Get a job that you love. Want to be happy? Be truly engaged at work.