January 23

Is it Love?

January 23, 2023

Is it Love?

With the great attrition underway & the demographic fold on the horizon, companies scramble to keep positions filled…

…But as long as the jobs they offer remain a pre-defined, strenuous melange of mind-numbing tasks towards meaningless ends, companies will keep struggling in the new labour market.

According to a study conducted by Marcus Buckingham and his Colleagues at ADP Research Institute (ADPRI), all the initiatives we read about more flexible work arrangements and fancy benefits fail to address the root cause of the problem. I couldn’t agree more! As an avid proponent of root-cause-analysing the sh*t out of any challenge, I had to dive deeper into their findings.

Companies try a lot to mitigate the effects of great attrition and labour shortage. But they fail at analysing the root causes of their individual challenges in retaining and attracting personell—or even keeping their personell motivated and engaged.

The ADPRI research suggests that is is not the money, nice colleagues, an attractive working environment or even the hyped idea of a strong identification with the companies “mission”—instead, the study suggests the answers to three questions proved most significant:

    • Did I enjoy every workday in the last week?

    • Was I able to contribute my strengths?

    • Does my work give me the chance of doing things I am good at and that I like doing?

To be honest, in many weeks I myself cannot wholeheartedly answer the first question with “yes”, and I guess that rings true to all of us (except some internet gurus, maybe). So all statistical relevance of that question aside, this might just be a bit of a steep goal for companies to initially aim for. But both other points do offer great starting points:

It is a relatively easy task to find out what people consider to be their own strengths, as is comparing that to how co-workers would assess the same persons strengths. This would be a more of a qualitative approach. Not only does this exercise help your team members reconsider their perception of each other and getting to know each other better, ultimately helping them to distribute tasks between themselves more effectively; it also helps companies identify overstaffing and understaffing of personal traits and abilities within teams, and facilitate workshops to address the findings.

Even easier, as data can be collected through simple things like an online questionnaire or handing out printed survey forms you just have to create once, and be quantified and tracked over time is finding out to what level your staff feels they can contribute their expertise, and to what degree they enjoy doing so. This is a low-cost, low-effort measurement you can implement on a monthly or even weekly basis to track workplace satisfaction – and hell, you can even incorporate the elusive question of enjoying every single day. Why is that awesome? Well there you have three KPI’s you can measure your companies efforts to improve the situation against. Just by showing interest in your staff. This one has the advantage of being anonymous, too, so you avoid the “observer effect” of qualitative methods, where your interviewees tend to provide more “desirable” answers. Pretty neat, is it not?

Pareto strikes again: 20% of work being work you love significantly lowers the risk of physical and/or psychological burn-out

Data from Mayo Clinic Research give us encouraging numbers, as well: You don’t need moonshots to significantly improve workplace satisfaction. According to their findings, 20% of the workday consisting of things staff like doing appears do be enough to significantly reduce the risk of experiencing burn-out. On the flip side, beyond those 20%, not too much seems to happen in terms of increased resilience—the Mayo Clinic study unfortunately did not measure workplace satisfaction—but I believe it to be reasonable to infer a correlation between the two.

So great, now we know wich questions to ask to get meaningful KPI’s as to how attractive we are as employers. But how does that help us with the labor shortage, or with retaining the staff we have?

The value of insight is only as high as the intent to utilise it to facilitate change.

I guess we can all agree upon the value of gathering data and insight correlates with our intent to actually learn from it, instigate change, and measure its effects. Here are some Ideas on how to have an easy start:

    • Set up an online questionnaire or handout form

    • Ask for workplace satisfaction in the last week on a scale of 1-5

    • Ask for the average portion of work that was fun in the last week in percent.

    • Ask for the percentage of work people found they could contribute their strengths in the past week.

    • Ask wich task the interviewee likes most about their job

    • Ask wich task the interviewee dislikes the most

And there you have a great starting place: 3 KPI’s you can measure over time, namely overall workplace satisfaction, and the share of work that employees enjoyed on average. Those will be your guide as to whether changes you implement have a positive or negative effect.

Then there are the two qualitative, more open questions, where interviewees will tell you which tasks are enjoyble, and wich are not. This will potentially vary greatly among participants, and unfortunately, those don’t just fit into an excel sheet. You will have to cluster these into groups of similarity—nonetheless, in my experience, while there will be variation across staff members, there will typically be 3 distinct clusters: A task or group of tasks that you find in both sections, the “likes” and the “dislikes”, and a tasks that stands out as being unpopular across the board.

I usually suggest to start with what is disliked across the board: This is your chance to “prove” you listen, and take action on behalf of the team. It is also a big chance to raise engagement with staff, be it through workshops or on an individual basis. Root cause analyse the “why” to the dislike. Once you get there, discuss ways to mitigate or even get rid of that “why”. Is it necessary at all? Can the same result be achieved in a less cumbersome way? Can it be automated?

You will find that your staff will report higher scores in all three metrics even before there are any results. But it is up to you to keep that momentum up, and coach your staff through the process. Need help? Get in touch!


Continuous Improvement, Management, Philosophy, Well-Being

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