By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook
Is it possible to love your work? Definitely! In fact, I can’t imagine getting through life without enjoying the work that I do.
TV talk show host and comedian Johnny Carson knew this quite well and is famous for telling the world: “Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you’ll have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.”
So the real question is: Why don’t most of us love our work?
Is it that you made a bad career choice? Or that you thought you wanted to do something when you selected a major in college, and now can’t imagine why you ever thought this would be fulfilling?
Maybe you love your work, but not your employer? Do you find yourself feeling under-valued or under-appreciated? Is it that you would really enjoy your work if you just didn’t have to do the work of the five co-workers who lost their jobs in the economic downturn?
It is probably a combination of all of these things, but as the economy recovers, it is something that businesses are focusing on, for research shows that 84 percent of American workers plan to look for a new job in 2011.
Further, according to the 2010 Gallup Employee Engagement Index, only 29 percent of the employees surveyed are fully engaged in their work; 54 percent report not being engaged and another 17 percent are knowingly disengaged. A disengaged workforce has tremendous implications for productivity.
Gallup has calculated that this lack of engagement costs us $350 billion every year.
HR managers are aware of the situation and are struggling with the incredibly low rate of employees who are actively engaged in the work they do.
It seems to me that the idea of loving what you do is the key to closing the gap between employees being engaged or disengaged in their daily activities. While there is no simple solution for re-engaging the workforce, here are some ideas to track what is happening in your organization:
- Conduct an employee opinion survey and find out what your people value from the workplace, then take action to change what you can.
- Celebrate successes.
- Be a good corporate citizen. Employees want to be proud of where they work.
- Hire the best people available.
- Ensure that your pay and benefits are competitive.
- Train supervisors and managers to listen carefully to employees.
- Provide career development and training opportunities to all — but especially to your superstars.
- Provide work/life balance.
- Provide a flexible workplace.
- Embrace diversity.
- Embrace sustainability.
Finally, this advice is for managers: Check where you are on engagement, because your attitudes and behaviors impact those you supervise. Ask yourself: Do you love what you do? If not, it may be time to look for work you will love..
About Barbara Mitchell
Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known as an expert in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted to a variety of organizations around the world.
She served in senior human resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.
Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Mitchell by email.