Over the past month we’ve been talking a lot about employee engagement. Not that we don’t often talk about it here, as it’s possibly one of the biggest issues in HR today – how do we engage and motivate those we are responsible for?
We know the benefits engagement can bring – higher productivity, better working atmospheres and a workplace culture which attracts talent – and we know it translates to the bottom line.
One thing has been playing on my mind recently – how some people seem able to find enrichment in their jobs and become engaged more easily than others. Having left university almost two years ago, it’s been fascinating working in the HR industry as a journalist and watching what has happened so far to my peers.
For some, work has allowed them to blossom. Management beckons even now, work presents daily challenges. There are frustrations, naturally, but you know they love what they do. For others, it’s not such a happy story. Whatever they are doing, it never seems enough. They move from place to place. Work is considered a negative. Living for the weekend, I wonder if they’ll ever be happy with what they do. Ok, you might say, it’s just a job. But these people are not working in bars or coffee shops. They have by most people’s standards, good careers, with prospects, committed colleagues and interesting lives. Besides – work is not ‘just a job’. It’s just not. Your attitude, how you engage, interact, your personal brand is what you build yourself. It’s you, whether at home or at work.
We spend so much time at work, if you’re not enjoying it it’s important to understand why. And do something about it – by which I mean ask for help, ask for training, ask to be stretched. And if you can be moved to different responsibilities for a fresh look, then that’s good too. If after that you run out of options, then sure, look for a new place.
But an assumption that the ‘grass is greener’ might not be the case at all – if you come with a ‘hate work’ attitude, how can you be sure you’ll ever enjoy your job? Are some people ‘unengageable’? You might assume people who are unhappy in their jobs are being underpaid for their efforts. Perhaps they feel they are, but we all know it’s not to do with money.
The most important aspect of pay is to feel you are paid fairly for your work. Even if the pay is slightly under what you might expect, the atmosphere and work environment makes a huge difference: having flexible working, providing fruit, massages or toast to your employees, building a team who care about each other and enjoy working together can all help.
Feeling you have a future with an organisation is not to be underestimated: I know highly engaged people whose take-home pay is probably cancelled out immediately by rent and travel costs. It’s not fair, no. But they work in a highly competitive industry. They know they have good prospects and they love their work. These are the people I really hope get noticed and get rewarded for everything they have put in, althought I suspect they are hard to spot in a large organisation. This is another area where line managers are so important: they need to communicate upwards the good work they see.
By the way, I worked in coffee shops and in bars, and still found job satisfaction. A coffee well-made, a pint perfectly poured. A crowd of happy customers you have to good-naturedly throw out at closing time. A regular you can greet with their favourite drink on arrival. The relationships you have at work – no matter where you work- can make or break work. I wondered at first if those who are ‘easily engaged’ lack ambition. It’s not the case. Taking pride in your work at whichever level doesn’t mean you lack ambition. If anything, I’d say the most ambitious people I know actively acknowledge that they love what they do.
I’ve tried to put together a few pointers below to try to address how to go about loving your work. There’s only four – please feel free to add to these.
How can you get ready to love your work?
- Learn to take pride in your work – even the little details. A ‘to do’ list completed. An extra phone call made. Some time made to chat with a colleague and build a relationship. (Don’t go mad on the last one, but recognise the need to bond)
- Don’t be so quick to blame it all on work – if you take out your unhappy homelife on clients and colleagues at work, chances are you won’t enjoy home or work. Identify which is the problem and work on it
- Take your holiday and enjoy it – switch off for a bit. Relax. Enjoy the time off your hard work has earned. Then go back raring to go
- The final tip is to take responsibility – no one is ever as interested in your career as you: you need to be the one driving the change you wish to see.
To do something you love is the ultimate driver to engagement. But you need to be ready to love your work. And if you’re ready to do that, then I’m loving your work.
If you have any tips or ideas to add, I’d love to hear them – I hope to bring more tips on engagement from the launch of the MacLeod guidelines tomorrow.
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Big thanks to @citizensheep and @duanejackson who answered my late-night Sunday tweet – loving your work…