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The Evolution of Engagement

September 7, 2018 Joe Mechlinski


We keep evolving. But does our attitude towards work change?

In this series of blogs, adapted from my latest book, Shift The Work, I look at how our three different brains – our head, heart and gut brains – can make us more aware of how we contribute to the world and help us become more engaged at work, at home, and in life.

We’ve made it out of the caves. We’re no longer rubbing two sticks together in order to generate fire. We’ve mastered agriculture and industrial production. We’ve built cities full of skyscrapers and immense opportunities for people of all walks of life.

But through our achievements we’ve also produced new challenges. Smog fills the skylines of our cities and warms our planet. The rules of basic civility have been thrown out the window. Our politicians can’t come together to solve our most pressing issues. Doctors and researchers have succeeded in prolonging life, but this achievement has produced a new concern as the solvency of Medicare and Social Security is tested.

And the workplace is no stranger to these challenges. Workers walk through life disengaged and unfulfilled. As a society, we've momentarily plateaued and become complacent with mediocrity. But as with all things in life, the next phase of evolution is just beginning. Today, workers are waking up. One by one they're demanding more from themselves and more from their organizations. Employees want to thrive in an organization that's willing to thrive with them; ones with strategies to enable employee engagement.

A Snapshot of Engagement: Analyzing Today's Workforce

Baby boomers are retiring, taking with them their honed crafts and institutional knowledge and leaving an enormous talent gap. Meanwhile, inequality in the workforce has become more entrenched. The Economic Policy Institute reports that from the years 1978 to 2014, CEO compensation has increased by almost 1,000 percent, while the average worker’s pay rose just 11 percent. Additionally, white men represent 62.2 percent of private-sector senior-level executives, while black men make up just 1.6 percent of this group. Worse still, while mostly white women comprise a grand total of 24.3 percent of private-sector senior-level leadership, black women only represent a bleak 1.5 percent.

To illustrate, for every 200 people in your company’s senior leadership level, you would find 124 white men, 50 white women, three black men, and three black women. According to the statistics, the remaining 20 leaders would be of Hispanic and "other" minority descent.

Assuming we don’t have another extinction-level event in the coming years, all these seemingly insurmountable problems will remain, or intensify.

How do we fill the talent gap? How do we get past our subconscious prejudices and allow all types of people to rise to the top of organizations? How do we demand that people stop valuing self-interests over the welfare of our communities? What’s more, how do we enable employee engagement strategies to connect people more deeply to their work?

It starts with understanding the deeper motivation for showing up to work every morning, day in and day out.

I will explore this more in my next post. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. What is the situation like for you in the workplace? What kind of challenges are you facing? What is holding you back? Thank you for sharing!

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