Engaged, Happy Employees Need to be Trained

A new Gallup study found that of 100 million people working full-time, 30% are engaged and inspired, 20% are actively disengaged, and 50% have just checked out. In addition, the best managed and engaged teams have fewer accidents and fewer quality defects than disengaged and mismanaged teams. Disengagement and mismanagement cost companies $450-550 billion annually. This study found that an employee’s direct manager, “the manager from hell,” is the source of most disengagement.

If we want engaged and well-managed employees, why aren’t we more proactive about it?  Why are we competitive and conniving and then wonder why we haven’t sufficiently developed talent in our organizations? We blame those who work for us when they aren’t prepared to mentor their employees, give them feedback, and lead the organization. Why are we always surprised when people who are competent in their specific role (like accounting or engineering) are not competent in supervising, leading, coaching, or giving feedback? Employees won't develop these skills unless we help them along their way, making sure they're ready to lead when it is their turn.

We need to re-think talent development in organizations (business and government) to find better ways to engage employees at work and be better leaders. We need to develop employees more like medicine does, where students are allowed to learn and apprentice before they actually touch a patient. We need to remember that new employees are still learning and need our help. We need to remember that new managers need to learn how to mentor their employees, need to learn how to listen to them, need to learn how to coach them and learn how to give them constructive feedback. We can’t just assume that because they have been to college, interviewed well, and were offered a job, that they now know what to do. We have to do a better job helping employees move from one level of management to the next. If we are more proactive, this will help the entire organization feel like we are all on the same team working towards the same goals, for the best interests of all of us. 

It is not a competition. We are on the same team, working towards the same goal.

Karen and Aneil Mishra are business school professors and authors of Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012). They help leaders and teams build trust to become more engaged at work.