Why Disengagement Is The #1 Problem In Our Culture

According to Gallup’s latest engagement survey, 87% of the world’s workers, to varying degrees are disengaged. With numbers like this, how do we get anything done? Well, we do it in a trance. These figures represent more than a business problem, they are tragic.

Here’s why:

The great disengagement destroys customer relationships, kills patients, comes home to our children, and infects the thinking of our developing young. Disengagement is closely linked to the scourge of America’s modern economy – underemployment. According to a New York Times survey, 48% of our workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” Many describe this state as being underutilized, working beneath their income capacity, and as an ongoing struggle. Without an intervention, these numbers will only grow.

As we conducted research for The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press), it has become clear that employee disengagement isn’t just an extension of mediocre or bad management. On a much bigger scale, it represents the fact that workers, at all levels of our culture, don’t have the skills to reinvent themselves. The resistance around being able to change one’s beliefs, behavior and outlook can often be distilled when an alcoholic gets sober. It is a frightening and uncomfortable process. When humans don’t have a clear incentive to change, we don’t. Certainly, we don’t change enough to thrive. In the last ten years, the world changed in the world of work. But, many of us were so caught up in the recession that we didn’t see how much the world was transforming.

Many employers continue using obsolete instruments like employee surveys filled with questions on how we can become better employees. But, they are doing nothing to show their employees how to change and engage. The two characteristics are bedfellows living hand-in-hand. I know people have the capacity to change. We’ve been creating engagement with people in their own lives and careers for twenty-seven years. We instill an immersive experience that leads to a revolutionary change in a person’s life within 48 hours. We do this by helping people connect with their own truth in disciplined and safe ways. We also show people how to fulfill their ambitions by learning the new life skills that were absolutely unnecessary in the old world of work.

Let’s examine the obvious. If only 13% of the world’s workers are engaged, only category leaders can attract enough engaged workers to run an organization. Not only is it realistic to build engaged workers, it is not only doable, and it is a deeply rewarding process for all involved. So, more about that in the book.

My greatest concern about the disengagement and underemployment problem is this is a symptom of the growing chasm between the traditional task worker and accelerating change from the last ten years. Right now, Robotics, 3-D printing, Artificial Intelligence, Smart Filters, Virtual Reality are speeding towards the workplace at the speed of light. The need to learn how to change oneself is growing so very quickly that we need a huge wake-up call.

Don’t expect this call from our political leaders! Business and large organizations are doing a better job at affecting positive change. Consequently, teaching all of our employees how to change is not only beneficial towards productivity and retention, we do what we can to solve an urgently growing challenge.

Lest anyone think I’m being too alarmist or mired in science-fiction consider the following simplified points:

✅ America’s #1 job for men is the truck driver. We have already proven that it is safer and more economical to have artificial intelligence and robotics run the truck.
✅ 3D printing has reached a sophistication level that it is now being used to print fighter jets. The growth of this technology will turn shipping, distribution and assembly lines on their heads.
✅ Human resources is quickly outsourcing task-driven work to software and technology. Now, everyone who hopes to have a future in the field needs to become a strategist or a very smart resource in outsourcing. All of this happens when talent is king to an organization’s success.

If anyone believes the country has a certain degree of unrest, consider what happens if we don’t find ways to inspire our workers, friends, colleagues, family members and loved ones to learn how to change.

For those of us continuing to look at the world of work through the lens of the industrial revolution, we see the loss of predictability and survival and not much else. But for those of us who learn the skills of change, the future is abundant and filled with opportunity. That’s right, how dare we tell our children they will not have the degree of abundance we had! That belief is based on whether our heads are looking back or forward.

Employers play a tremendous role in our future! Retooling our talent and our culture will take vision and, above all, courage. Changing ourselves will require the best of our humanity, our humility, and our resourcefulness. Developing cultures that actively build the engaged workforce will exude courageous action on both good and bad days, in wonderful and in terrible markets. We will be required to demonstrate a level of vision that rises far above the quarterly spreadsheet and plans for several years ahead.

So, let me propose that if you have extended the honor and expense of hiring someone into your tribe, that investing in that person’s greatness will only increase the innate value of that decision, that building a mentor-driven, high-standard, radically compassionate, connected, and open culture will also lead to less house-cleaning and more exciting opportunities.

Can such organizations save lives? Absolutely.

Will such organizations become category leaders? Of course, they will.

Actually, they will accomplish far more. We will build new economies. We will build a future devoid of patronizing promises to the past and filled with a courageous vision of what we have earned through our hard work.

The “trance” simply must end.


Many have asked me if The Workplace Engagement Solution is written for CEOs or human resource professionals or people who want to become more engaged. Actually, I have written it for anyone who will listen. Order your copy of The Workplace Engagement Solution at Amazon.

David Harder
David Harderhttp://www.inspiredworkservices.com
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.
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