Positive Change That Drives Sustainable Results
Every company is transforming, and CEOs agree that the pace of change is accelerating by the minute. Smart leaders also realize that people are transforming, too. There’s no debate that 2020 forever changed the way we perceive our jobs and ourselves. But “success” is no longer defined by dollars alone. It has been reimagined as part of something bigger, something meaningful and relevant.
The future of work will be led by organizations that understand and embrace the tectonic shift from requiring conformity for profits to embracing creativity for purpose. Even big-think consultancies are jumping on board with “Corporate Purpose” and staffing up with sustainably-minded cohorts. After working in this space for over 15 years, I think it’s about time the marketplace gets beyond its obsession with short-term profits at the expense of valuing the rich fabric of our humanity.
Acknowledge the ugly truth
A recent Gallup study showed 85 percent of Americans are unhappy in their jobs. Recent events inflamed an already skewed work-life balance while unexpected cuts and layoffs further fueled apprehension. Whether workers are feeling like an unappreciated cog in a money machine or living in fear of losing predictable income, this steady drumbeat of anxiety goes beyond burnout.
Today’s employees are experiencing an emerging crisis of Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD) that negatively impacts innovation, productivity, and personal interactions. Energetically, when people are feeling fear, uncertainty, and other “low vibe” emotions, they can’t engage or perform well. As a result, a mega-movement is afoot to reconnect. People are choosing to buy goods from and work for companies with a powerful purpose. They are defining “success” for themselves—and it goes beyond the dollar to include fulfillment, empowerment, and happiness at work and at home.
Shed the thinking of the past
The notion of “work-life balance” is a thing of the past. The well-oiled routine of time-consuming commutes to sit inside a concrete box is becoming less attractive after experiencing more personal and family time during Covid 19. Gartner found that U.S. employees value work-life balance even more than health benefits.
As a society, our priorities changed during 2020, so leaders need to recognize and alter the aspects of their culture that are making employees feel stressed out, disconnected, or off-balance. Defining the problem may not be that easy, however. According to a recent article in Forbes, 81 percent of people fake happiness at work. It’s important for executives to understand that employee surveys have limited value because evidence shows workers respond how they think they should, not how they actually feel. It’s called “acquiescence bias” and must be considered carefully if seeking a true reflection of culture.
Tapping into the culture of your company will require independent, qualitative conversations, and a willingness to be vulnerable and authentic. After reconsidering their quality of life—what’s really important—employees are less willing to continue “playing the game”. As a result, they’re exiting the workplace in droves. But there is hope for corporate culture and there are ways to encourage personal purpose that any company can do.
Increase happiness by supporting personal purpose
One simple way companies can energize employees is by encouraging each to set a personal goal for the year alongside their standard corporate metrics. Our vibes raise when we’re doing something that makes us happy; we forget to stop and eat, we lose track of time, or perhaps we begin humming subconsciously. Everyone has an activity that brings them joy like that. It could be building a model plane, learning to play an instrument, taking an art class, hiking, training for your first marathon…the list goes on and on.
Executive prescriptions are no longer valid
Executives have to stop thinking they can prescribe what will make their employees happy—a company picnic, a corporate outing, a tribal shout of the corporate mantra. While those could each be beneficial and fun activities, they aren’t specifically relevant. The key is allowing the freedom for each person to identify something that they are passionate about and brings them joy. Then give each person the flexibility and time to do it.
I realize this requires trust but isn’t that what we gave employees when they worked from home the last year? Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen if an employee needs to leave early for guitar lessons twice a week? Or what will happen if someone needs to take extended lunches to train for that marathon three times a week? Is it worth a few hours here and there to truly support happiness?
It’s a question of trust
Yes. It is! Happy employees are 13 percent more productive, stay longer in their roles than peers, are more innovative, and produce greater profits. Trust that your team members can and will manage their work-life balance. As each person’s happiness increases, the overall culture will shift. It has been reimagined as part of something bigger, something meaningful and relevant that shapeshifts it into the future of work. With each new goal, each passion project, over time your company undergoes a purposeful transformation.
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