The Missing Piece in Employee Engagement

By Samantha Chin

In 1949, Lee Kuan Yew returns to Singapore to practise law. From his experience in World War II, he was determined for Singapore to be self-governed. How?

The rest, as they say, is history. Lee attributed his success, among other factors, to having “a strong team of ministers who shared a common vision. (…) men determined to pursue our shared goals.”

It’s not about the free food, fitness gym and perks

In our survey with 100 HR and senior business decision makers in Singapore, 89% of respondents agreed they would be happier if they could act more purposefully at work.

How does purpose impact organisations? Consider any high-stakes situation: a medical team in the operating theatre, a team of journalist preparing for the next day’s paper. A clear shared purpose and how each person impacts the results engages the team to get the job done.

The founding fathers of Singapore were deeply purposeful. Minimal natural resources and infrastructure, they were in a sink-or-swim situation. They made strategic decisions and engaged millions of hardworking Singaporeans which set the foundation for Singapore’s progress.

Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian behind the famed sitcom, “Seinfeld”, was asked how he keeps doing what he does? He replied, “I fell in love with the work. And the work was joyful, and difficult, and interesting, and that was my focus.”

Purposeful work is engaging and where the work is a marriage of a person’s personality, expertise and vision. No amount of free coffee can fuel as much energy.

Why doesn’t it happen?

In 2012, Bersin by Deloitte reported organisations spent US$720 million on employee engagement programs. However, employee engagement has only risen marginally.

If both organisations and employees are seeking engagement, why aren’t the programs working?

From our conversations, a key challenge employees face is understanding how their work impacts the organisation. While organisations have lofty vision and mission statements, it often doesn’t translate to something meaningful or useful for the employee. How does a risk compliance officer in Microsoft bring computers to every home?

In our survey, other top challenges organisations face – ineffective management and team dynamics – hinders engagement as well.

Unrealized potential

In a 2003 Gallup report, it showed that low employee engagement costs the Singapore economy $4.9 billion. Since late-2014, the Singapore government initiated the Skillsfuture movement, which provides learning opportunities for people to deepen their skills and take charge of their own success.

Try something simple today. Have open and frequent conversations about purpose at work with your team. What makes their current work meaningful for them?

Their answers will surprise you.

About Personna

PERSONNA is a change management company supporting organisations who want to create fast business impact in highly competitive environments. We facilitate change from the inside out by turning ideas into real business impact. We conduct Fight Club individual coaching and group facilitation to deliver small high- impact interventions.

PERSONNA has been supporting innovative leaders to deliver fast business impact since 2010. We work with Sales & Marketing in Technology, Media and Retail.

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