AUSTRALIA’S DECLINING PEOPLE ENGAGEMENT PART 2

Part 2: Where do we go from here?
Conclusions & Comments

I am sure that there are other elements that indicate why engagement levels in organisations have dropped to such dramatic low levels. I have tried to capture the key factors which in my opinion could have facilitated the fall.
My interpretation of the current mood from visiting various organisations in 2015 was that I found that there are an array of emotions being displayed by a sizeable amount of Australians within the workplace: anger, frustration, mistrust, negativity and a strong sense of entitlement together with a general sense of a push back against authority being felt across the spectrum.
Coupled with these sentiments, the changed process of communication has opened up completely new avenues for opinions and thoughts to be aired, without too many boundaries being exercised, creating challenges for all organisations.
The influence of an ever growing ubiquitous media whose strategies may be, unfortunately, designed to take the opportunity to create more discord in the minds of people over certain issues. This seems to have the effect of placing doubt, regarding decisions that may have to be taken.

Where do we go from here?

  1. Firstly I believe no progress can be made unless these is a recognition of adopting a sense of realism about what can be achieved and the time it may take to obtain tangible results. The commitment required is not a short term solution and if that is the intention it may do more damage than good. No one should be under the illusion we can reverse this trend quickly, it takes time and dedication.
  2.  All parties need to demonstrate that commitment to change is inevitable and consider how to manage its realities. This particular aspect of engagement requires a great deal of focus as there still remains a core of traditionalists who believe the main tenements in business have not changed. Similarly balancing the expectations of younger people on how quick such change can be implemented with a high level of success.
  3. It will require organisations to build teams who believe and are committed to an engagement culture, this will include a cross section of people, from board members to other staff. Identifying key individuals within your ranks who can be champions for the development of your culture.
  4. Bridging the gap between the traditionalists and younger generation in terms of cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experience. ( The time frame for this is only seven years as in 2023 we see the possible end of the working lives of the baby boomer generation.)
    Provision in annual budgets for expenditure on education, awareness and upskilling of managers, especially in the field of managing people.
  5. From the employee side it will be about the education of self-awareness and determining a realistic level of expectations.
  6. Setting up structures where managers and leaders can often share views, etc. (This has been one of the areas identified where relationships are seen to be struggling.)
  7. The content and style of communications must be clear to enable understanding by all employees in your organisation.

It is not too difficult to identify those organisations who have shown a proactive stance in terms of this issue invariably they have high retention rates and good profitability, they have understood the dynamics at play and have adjusted their strategies accordingly.
Our current business landscape in terms of engagement could be considered to resemble Australia’s own internal bloodless revolution with the combatants being traditionalists who refuse to yield to essential and inevitable change against those who are rather impatient and impervious to sage advice as they see a completely different world. It might be useful to remember that the possible outcome of the above battle may be taken out of our hands if we allow our competitors overseas to steal a march on us whilst we delay action.
What has differentiated us in the past is that we have always been regarded as one of the countries in the world with a strong reputation for possessing a positive outlook and attitude especially under trying and uncomfortable conditions.
We have demonstrated this many times in our history showing that we can be stoic and inventive. Can we honestly claim that today we live up to that reputation?
These comments may be seen as somewhat harsh but sometimes we Australians can come across as overzealous in advancing our patriotic credentials at the expense of not dealing with matters that need serious attention.
The reality of our situation is that we could apportion blame to all of the parties, emanating from their respective actions or lack of action in the past twenty years. However, an absence of application, forethought and realism has not been applied to the situation. Key casualties have been the reduction of confidence, respect, relationships and the biggest being the collateral damage incurred regarding trust.
It may be wistful on my part but I see it as the responsibility of everyone to try and uphold our national reputation in ensuring our organisations reflect the best of our country.

In the words of best-selling author Susan Scott, sometimes we need to have “Fierce Conversations”, whether we have the vision and will to carry it through, the jury is out.

Ken Wood
People Specialist
References: Disengaged Nation Author SACS Consulting/Deakin University
http://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/prod-wp-offload-aws-sacsconsult-com/wp-content/uploads/SACS-Consulting-Disengaged-Nation-Report.p
The Social Contract Ref: Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/

Fierce Conversations – author Susan Scott
http://www.lwccyork.com/uploads/fierceconversationssummary.pdf