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What did you want to be when you were younger? Are you happy with your current job?

When you were young and adults asked you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Have any of you ever responded with, "When I grow up, I want to do my job with borderline competency and make the bare minimum salary to survive"?

Probably not. Ten year old you probably excitedly blurted one of the answers displayed in the word cloud above! You might have now long grown out of your original answer, but recall the excitement that bubbled when you used to think about your 'dream job'. Do you still experience a sense of eagerness and enthusiasm now, at your current workplace?

If your answer is no, then you aren't an engaged employee. A survey conducted in 2018 found that Singapore's employee engagement pins us as being one of the least engaged nations in Asia.

Considering that we spend about a third of our adult lives at work, it's not a stretch to say that our jobs have a huge impact on our happiness and quality of life. At this point, you might be wondering, "What's so wrong about not being engaged at work? As long as everyone comes to work and does their job, the organization will function just fine, so it's okay to work for the sake of working."

However, disengaged and checked-out employees can be severely damaging and costly to business. Disengaged employees lead to high turnover rates and lost productivity, and that can impact the organization with numbers in the millions. It is important for business leaders to keep up with trends in engagement as changes in industries continue to accelerate.

So what drives engagement? Engagement drivers include:

1. Leading the way

Managers play a significant role in raising engagement levels through clear communication, setting expectations, role clarity, and matching talents to tasks.

A survey found that disengagement in Singaporean workers can largely be attributed to these manager-related issues. Many individuals don't have their potential used to the fullest extent, which causes them to lose motivation at work. They are essentially sleepwalking through most of the day, carrying out tasks with all the enthusiasm of a robot. The work doesn't match up to their skills, and they aren't challenged. A shocking number of workers are also uncertain about their role at work, especially in those working in companies with fewer than 500 employees. In terms of feedback, many fail to receive any at all, which plunges motivation into the pits. People like to know when they have done something well, and what they need to work on. Managers have to step up and take charge, providing employees with the necessary resources to find meaning and purpose in the work they do.

2. Focusing on the people

In line with adjusting management style, it is important to provide individuals with a sense of feeling cared for. More compassionate leadership and organizational culture needs to prevail across industries. The more an employee feels part of a community, the more likely it is that they are engaged with what they do. Only when people feel cared about by the organization that they will return the favor to go above and beyond the bare minimum.

When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.

It's about more than the money. The money can keep them working at the level they are minimally required to, but there's more: how comfortable they feel where they work, how they feel around their colleagues, how they feel about the value of what they do. When people feel like they aren't heard, and what they do doesn't matter, there is a lack of ownership and accountability that seeps into the environment

People start feeling like mechanical cogs in a wheel and this will be reflected in their work, and at the end of the day, in the bottom line of the organization. The more engaged your employees are, the more productive they become, and very importantly, you get to work in a happy workplace filled with people who actually want to be there.

We don't have to all resign to the fact that life is just one long line of work, sleep, rinse and repeat. We can accelerate and enable the change necessary to cater to that human desire we all share to experience growth, enrichment and engagement at work.


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