I’m writing a new book – this time about adding ten years to our lives. Part of that is having to pay for the extra years. Not that working is just about earning but wine doesn’t pay for itself. (Note to self: invent self-paying wine.) Engaged employees – engaged people – live longer, better lives.
So, for income, a sense of purpose and simply something to do, we’d like to keep working. You and me anyway – on our terms. I’ve been reading some interesting research on how those of us trucking on into our seventies and onwards in the workforce can’t rely on being perceived as hire-able in the traditional sense. Even now, over half the ‘workers’ above 65 are self employed. There are lots of reasons for that. Some reasonable reasons and some not so much.
Being self employed is tough and challenging and has no guarantees. You either dig that scene or you don’t. I do. I never thought I would.
To better tool ourselves up for a future with options, we need to bulk up the quantity and quality of our social and professional connections. That’s good for health, longevity and business. We could also prep for our potential launch into self employment by having a Brain-Based Boss who allowed, even encouraged, Intrapreneurship. ENtrepreneurs are those idealised risk-taking arse-kicking people who take new ideas and energy and try and implement and monetise them. The minority who survive are lauded as wealth and job creators for others. This is true although it is a gruesome attrition. So, INtrapreneurs would, in theory, take that same attitude and apply it in a job inside an existing company.
It’s a thing. There’s even a conference about it.
The poster child for Intrapreneurs is the inventor of post-it notes who was working for 3M at the time and they took the idea. Although, that guy, whose name I cannot remember, was just trying to keep his place in his choir’s hymnbooks. He was using company time and resources to do it. 3M might be cool and programme such time and efforts into their people’s jobs, not just allowing it after the fact but encouraging it hoping for that 1-in-a-1000 hit.
Employee engagement is helped significantly where there is an alignment between an employee’s personal goals and the goals of the organisation. (Not just saying that they do.)
A recent study conducted by Macquarie Graduate School of Management showed that Corporate volunteering improves employee satisfaction, retention and engagement.
Corporate volunteers were very satisfied with their volunteering experience (83% satisfied), very likely to continue (87%), and very likely to recommend it to their friends (75%). The most common barriers were ‘not being asked’ (38%), ‘being too busy (36%), preferring to volunteer privately (31%), and preferring to donate money than to volunteer (21%).
I presume “I don’t care” and “I can’t be bothered” weren’t provided as options. Therein lies yet another failing of surveys and prompted responses.
Here’s a post from Forbes where the author picks a fight with Gallup on the validity of the claims of their latest surveys shrieking that 70% of employees are either unengaged or disengaged. The author reckons from his own surveys and simple personal observation that the number cannot be right.
Stepping to the sidelines and shouting on to both sides of the debate, it might be because of differing definitions of what employee engagement is. I reckon that I don’t care what anybody’s survey says if the survey is getting people to self declare, anonymously or otherwise, how they feel about their job or how they think they feel about anything at all. To me, employee engagement is a quite specific and observable set of behaviours. Quite apart from what people SAY, I think it matters what they DO. And we can observe that.
Employee engagement is people doing more than they have to because they choose to – discretionary effort. We can delve into the whys and the drivers of their choices later but the actual existence and extent of the engagement needs no survey.
If people say they’re thrilled with their jobs, that is not necessarily an engaged employee. There’s plenty of instances where unhappy employees bust their hump and do apply discretionary effort and plenty of instances where delighted employees coast. People’s feelings of delight or disgruntlement are neither here nor there. It is behaviour that matters.
And, ultimately, who cares what the national average engagement levels are? You need to watch and gauge your business’s levels and their trend. Work alongside, observe, interact – you know – people stuff. Not emailing them a link to an online assessment – if that’s all you do. As part of a planned programme, I can live with surveys, but often, surveys are the start and finish of employers’ efforts.
So, I disagree with the blogger about his disagreement with Gallup in that sense. It makes sense for a company to shriek a number like 70% if you’re a company that also sells solutions to that problem. Me, I just sell cynicism.
But I do think his latter point has merit – about survey results colouring management’s perception of, and therefore behaviour towards, their people. Like Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’ / Pygmalion, if people saw her as an impoverished common seller of matchsticks, they treated her as such, but if they saw her as a refined lady, their reactions altered. If bosses think their staff are disengaged (regardless of whether they are or not) and treat them as such, maybe it does become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe bosses should treat people as individuals, make decisions based on their own specific and direct data and have a healthy cynicism towards any data coming from people with something to sell?
Wouldn’t that be luvverly?
Sitting can be as bad as smoking. They should print warnings on couches and office chairs. Even if the chair is perfectly primed by a professional Ergonomist and made safe from any posture or health and safety issue, the very act of being sedentary and sitting for long periods is not what humans are suited for. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Between 1945 and 1995, the average adult daily calorie expenditure fell 800 calories. So the amount of moving we do each day has reduced by 800 calories, thanks to cars and machines and washing machines and so forth. 800 calories is the equivalent of a ten mile walk! In 1960, 50% of jobs required at least moderate physical activity. Today it is only 20%. Two thirds of desk workers eat lunch sitting at their desk.
Move it or lose it!
I’m researching for my new book about adding 10 productive years to your life. One thing I’m definitely doing myself now is minimising sugar consumption. It’s insidious how it used to drain my effectiveness, nevermind how it was shortening my life and the quality of it. Sugar is a tough one. Most of us love sugar-based products and it is a primal driver from our starving caveman days.
Things you didn’t even know had sugar in them have sugar in them. One McDonalds cheeseburger has 7 grams of sugar in it. So does a Burger King cheeseburger. 7 grams of sugar is about 2 teaspoons. And who eats just one cheeseburger?
www.sugarstacks.com is a neat idea. I can say 7 grams but what does that look like? You might re-think drinking one can of coca cola if first you saw a photo of one can of coca cola with 10 sugar cubes next to it. Probably not, because you’re addicted to sugar, but at least now you’re operating from an informed position. If you’re thinking that consuming 10 cubes of sugar would make you sick, you’d be correct but fortunately there are offsetting chemicals in soft drinks to enable us to consume and keep down the sugar.
It was once rumoured that cocaine was the secret ingredient in coca cola to addict drinkers to the product. No need.
The World Health Organisation recommends no more sugar daily than:
|Adult Female||5tsp (20g)|
|Adult Male||9tsp (36g)|
And by sugar, they don’t just mean the sweet powdery granules you add to cereal. They mean naturally occurring sugars like in fruit juice. In this sense, a 500ml container of Charlie’s Real Orange Juice contains 11tsp of sugar – 22% more than a grown-as man’s daily need. Of course, if you wanted to lose weight after a lifetime of excessive sugar consumption, you’d need to consume even less.
New Zealanders are the 11th largest consumers of soft drinks in the world. On average we consume 10tsp of sugar daily just from drinks, nevermind however else we consume sugar. Six cans of coke a week at 139 calories per can, all other things being equal, will add five and a half kilograms to your weight in a year.
You probably provide sugar for your staff’s tea and coffee. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I used to shout highly sugary morning teas for my teams. I shudder looking back at that now. Maybe having a soda vending machine is not a great idea either? Have a read of the nutrition info on the bottles of some of those flavoured waters too.
Alternative sweeteners, be they chemicals or ‘natural’, have their own particular evils too. They make you want more sweetness for a start. They just make you want more everything.
Add zero? Yeah right.
I’m currently researching my next book. It’ll be about adding ten years to your productive life. Expanding lifespans in developed countries are tarnished by the physical diseases and decay of affluence. Retirement for many is becoming a shifting goalpost, a political football or an unwelcome concept from last century. Now seems a great time to write about the topic of stretching out the good and productive years. We’re living longer so we may as well live better and make a few more bucks along the way. Or not – on the bucks front anyways. I’m already reading much about how money, above a certain level, doesn’t make that much difference in terms of quality of life. Though below that level, it will diminish the quantity of life you end up with.
A consistent theme throughout the new book will be overlapping and inter-connectedness – a systems approach. Certainly, when you get to the sections on our bodies and how our physical systems work (or don’t), this becomes incredibly evident.
This next bit might be more of a laugh than anything factually helpful but it is a conversation starter. I use it when MCing conferences to get a buzz going and the noise and enthusiasm levels up amongst the audience.
John Manning studied the relationship between our finger lengths and certain health outcomes. Look at the photo below of my hand and how I’ve marked the difference in length between my ring finger (4D) and my index finger (2D.) Check out your own 4D:2D ratio. They’ve been the same your whole life and they’re not going to change. It’s supposed that their relative lengths are a consequence of exposure to differing levels of testosterone in the womb as a foetus.
So what? Manning’s study of Liverpool heart attach victims’ fingers found a high ratio (like mine) has a correlation with lower heart attack risk. It’s good for sport. It’s bad for depression. It’s terrible for autism. Manning himself describes his findings as, “Persuasive but not yet definitive.” Why am I even bothering to finish this paragraph? You’re too busy trying to stretch your fingers or finding a friend to check out their fingers before you tell them why…
I’m not sure how everyone else defines a business as being ‘small’ or medium’ or ‘jumbo.’ Let’s say a small business is one with 10 or less employees. Can they benefit from engaged employees and how can engagement be bolstered when they’re a small business? They don’t have an HR Department reading journals and inventing new terms like employee engagement. They probably have one boss, maybe two, and they’re really busy and focused getting stuff done, making sales, completing orders. This article tosses around a few basic and unarguable ideas.
I recently did a speaking tour and many attendees were from small businesses. The presentations were specifically about building winning teams. Quite a few members of audiences were from businesses with zero employees. They had a one or two person owner/operator set-up. I admired their mindset. They had no employees, yet were pre-thinking about the need-for and the how-to of employee engagement BEFORE they even attempted to get any employees.
Smart! (Jumbo smart.)
Are engaged employees healthier or are healthy employees more engaged? Is this a chicken and egg situation? Are eggs good or bad for your health?
94% of companies say they’ll have a health and productivity plan within 3 years. 30% currently do. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to say you’re going to do something within 3 years than to actually do it. But is it worth the effort? Other than the workplace safety aspect and lessening genuine sickness absences, are there demonstrable productivity benefits in a workforce of fit folk?
This recent article thinks there are benefits:
“…work can lead to a number of physical and mental challenges, including stress, obesity and lack of physical activity. Those issues can be result in illness and higher medical costs, resulting in lost productivity and efficiency for companies.”
I’ve just started the research for my third book and I’m knee-deep in papers and books on longevity, wellness and productivity. The ideas are still gelling and crystalising (jelly-crystals?) but broadly the theme is about adding 10 productive years to your life and your work. There’s a New Zealand bank selling retirement savings products with a catchy advertising campaign with an even more catchy theme song, sarcastically entitled, ‘I wanna work til I die.’ The basic assumption being that no one likes to work, work is just about income and that working beyond the minimum retirement age is a fate worse than death.
“If you want to work until you die, that’s okay. But make sure it is your choice, that is to say it is part of your master plan, and not forced upon you by circumstances.”
I love what I do. I’ll stop when I’m incapable of doing it anymore and, meantime, I’m doing as much as I can to extend that period of me being able to do it. I get that many people don’t feel that way about their current work or perhaps working at all – ever. That’s their choice. And chances are, they’re probably not going to be interested in buying my book. Or reading my book. Or reading at all – ever.
This recent news report cites some improvement in UK engagement figures and says that larger private companies are increasingly offering staff volunteer opportunities to improve employment engagement.
Most of my book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ cited the research of others but the biggest piece of primary research I actually conducted myself was on volunteers. The news report above was about businesses allowing their people (or compelling them to ‘volunteer’) to do some charitable work as part of their ‘real’ paid work. There’s a bank in New Zealand that does this with their ‘Closed For Good’ campaign. The bank actually shuts for a day and sends the staff out to plant trees and such. It’s a nice effort and probably good marketing but that’s not where genuine benefits or lessons from volunteerism comes for businesses.
And by ‘volunteers’, I’m not talking about spending a few hours collecting for charity or running a barbeque outside a shopping centre for the swim club. I’m not talking about volunteers who coach kids’ sports or do the club paperwork. I’m talking about people who show up on a regular, formally scheduled basis to perform specified tasks with other people with defined outcomes, standards and so forth. You know, like a job. But for free.
Volunteering enables people to learn new skills or keep their hand in at existing ones supporting people moving towards mastery. Having leaders with a shared point of view stimulates an autonomy supportive environment. The ‘no surprises’ policy and differentiation strategy makes volunteer organisations sense of purpose obvious. Ultimately that purpose when volunteering is about positively and effectively influencing others.
Leaders of paid employees can learn a lot from those leading volunteer workforces. I know I did.