“We have to stop the churn on our teams.”
“I have no idea how our work connects to the bigger picture.”
“We have too many dependencies.”
“The constant reorgs are keeping us from finishing work.”
These are actual comments we’ve seen on TeamHealth radar assessments. We’ve been hearing a lot about employee disengagement in recent years. Are these disengaged employees? Not yet! They’re still telling you what’s wrong.
I was once in a heated meeting with coworkers and when we left, my boss asked me if I was ok. I told him, “You don’t have to worry about me when I’m arguing. It’s when I’m silent that things aren’t going well.” Patrick Lencioni, author of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has said that the most dysfunctional teams he’s ever worked with never argue. Think about that.
Many new employees start out quiet as they’re feeling their way around the organization. Then, as they learn the culture and really begin assimilating into it, they notice what’s wrong and begin speaking up. Too often, these employees “flame out”. They try in vain to push for change, then become quiet. This is disengagement. At this point they do one of two things:
- They quit and leave.
- They quit and stay - eek!
More and more employees are leaving. At the beginning of 2021, more than 40% of employees indicated they were thinking about leaving their jobs. Between April and September 2021, more than 24 million Americans did so. But why? According to an MIT study in March 2022, the number one predictor of turnover at a company is toxic culture. It is ten times more likely to predict turnover than compensation. According to the study, toxic culture is defined as one or more of the following (in order of prevalence):
- Disrespectful (feeling disrespected, ignored)
I invite you to pay special attention to the word “ignored” as it’s the crux of your opportunity to increase engagement. More about that in a moment.
According to a Randstad study in April 2022:
- Nearly 50% of Gen Z (under 26) and Millennials (ages 26-41) would prefer being unemployed to being stuck in a job they didn’t like.
- 55% said they would leave their job if it interfered with their personal lives.
- A whopping 70% of all employees (all ages) are open to new job opportunities. That is a 30% increase from the beginning of 2021
Faced with this reality, can you really afford not to listen to employees when they provide feedback about the workplace?
AgilityHealth’s process for assessments and strategic retrospectives goes through painstaking effort to ensure that team members feel psychologically safe to leave anonymous comments and then builds growth plans for the team and for the organization. The latter consists of Organizational Growth Items (OGIs). Recall this comment from the opening of this article: “The constant reorgs are keeping us from finishing work.”
As an OGI, this would appear like this:
Problem: The constant reorgs are keeping us from finishing work
- Our team has missed important dates
- People are leaving because of the uncertainty causing brain drain. Keeping us in Forming stage
- The system is shifting underneath us so we cannot commit to even short horizon dates
- We’re creating new tech debt; not paying down existing
- Death marches - People are burning out
- Escaped defects are rising
When you see an OGI like this, you are standing at a crossroads as a leader. Quite simply it looks like this:
Take action and communicate and you will walk the path towards engagement. Ignore it (there’s that word again) and you will walk the path of disengagement from your employees. There is no middle road.
Why are the stakes so high? As Charles Feltman says in his book The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work, “Trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.”
With 55% of people willing to leave a company if it interferes with their personal lives, it’s safe to conclude that their happiness at work is important to them. Organizational Growth Items are a gift to you on a silver platter. They aren’t coming from disengaged employees. They’re coming from highly engaged employees who are entrusting you with taking action. Which path will you choose?
By Sean Lemson, Founder, Motivated Outcomes, LLC
Author of forthcoming book: One Drop of Poison: How One Bad Leader Can Slowly Kill Your Company