Warning #1: The Age of the Disengaged

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Zombie Office Worker

Recent studies have shown that three quarters of the Canadian workforce are considered either “Disengaged” or “Actively Disengaged”. Isn’t that brutal? How can any Canadian company with 75% of its workforce standing on the sidelines waiting to be told what to do, compete in a global value chain?

Worse yet, 15% are considered “Actively Disengaged”; their not just a nuisance or a waste of space, they are a liability to your organization. They use their lack of power and control over their work to justify their bad behavior, “I’m just doing what I was told”, “I had to do it”, “I’m just doing my job” as the news cameras pan over your latest disaster site.

A lack of power corrupts as easily as an excess of power. Actively disengaged employees go out of their way to take value away from your organization by talking negatively about you to your customers; they sabotage systems; bypass procedures and ignoring stakeholder needs, all under the banner of doing what they were told.

Typical Canadian Organization Chart

A quick search of the internet will turn up endless statistics and advice on how to fix the worker engagement problem…and it is a problem! Companies are investing millions of dollars in their fight to overcome complacency by creating cultures based on respect and inclusion, empowering autonomy in decision making, managing conflict in a constructive manner, increased organizational transparency, and promoting accountability for behavior in the workplace. Some initiatives are having success, some are not.

The way I see it, there are two very different solutions to the employee engagement problem.

1) empower front line workers to take responsibility of their tasks and realize higher levels of value from those resources, or

2) automate them out of a job.

Which one is your organization taking?

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