The Arbejdsglaede of Employee Engagement
If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would probably remember how concepts like Employee Engagement make me cringe a little bit. Specially, when it’s abused left and right by HR departments and corporations alike, in general, as that magic bullet that will help address and fix the number #1 business problem of today’s corporate world: employee disengagement. Or put together in simpler terms: people no longer owning or caring for their work. Don’t take me wrong, I do believe rather strongly in Employee Engagement. Seriously. I do. What I don’t believe much in is the current form of how businesses are thinking about engaging employees implying that they know better than them, that they can just throw it out there, put together some social technologies around it all and people would come and be re-engaged at work. Well, no, sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Employee engagement is a two-way street and unless both employees and employers are not willing to walk through both we won’t have it. Well, hello and welcome to the wonderful world of Arbejdsglaede!
The first time that I ever heard about Arbejdsglaede was at the rather wonderful and delightful Meaning Conference in Brighton that took place late last year and which, the conference itself, still keeps bringing up lots of very fond memories, every time that I think about how much I learned during the couple of days I stayed there and also how much I savoured the wonderful conversations I had throughout the whole time. But, like I was saying, I learned about Arbejdsglaede from Alex Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer (Yes, I know, gotta love job titles like that one! I do!!), while he delivered perhaps one of the most inspiring presentations I had the privilege of attending live during the course of 2012 (And perhaps in a long while, too!).
Arbejdsglaede basically means a feeling of happiness you get at work, which, as he clearly indicates, is not the same as job satisfaction. It’s way deeper than that. It’s all about reflecting on what makes you happy at work, and, apparently, it’s just too basic things:
And bang! That’s when it really hit me. That’s when I realised that true employee engagement is all about that! Focusing and repurposing your efforts as a (knowledge) worker towards striking new meaning in providing exceedingly good and top performing results, while building meaningful, empathic and caring personal business relationships. Talking about striking for that rather strong sense of ownership and co-responsibility, of belonging, really. That’s what, to me, employee engagement is all about. It’s about finding that happiness at work that clearly gives you that little bit of extra energy to get up every day and look forward to a new exciting day where you are going to, hopefully, learn, collaborate, share openly more of your knowledge (Without asking for much in return) by interacting with your (social) network(s) understanding that “happy people do better work”: “more productive, creative, helpful, better at service, focused on quality, better team-players, more open, more flexible, showing more empathy, selling more, more optimistic, motivated, engaged, energetic, with an ability to learn faster and eventually become better leaders“.
Whoaaahhh! See what I meant with employee engagement? Now, imagine this, how many businesses out there have got those kinds of aspirations for their own employees by engaging them from the very beginning to help drive a new purpose, a new meaning for what they do at work? Something tells me that perhaps not too many. Or, at least, not enough! Why? Well, because we still have got that huge, problematic issue of 70% of our employee workforce being totally disengaged. Simple. I know, it even hurts deeply. Sad. Rather sad, really.
Back in 2007, Alex put together a rather interesting and very much thought provoking blog post that I saw re-surfacing through my networks a few days back and that triggered me to eventually put together this blog entry. In Top 10 Signs You’re Unhappy at Work he listed what, back then, appeared to be some of the most profound signs as to why employees are not happy at work. Fast forward to 2013 and it looks like we are still seeing pretty much of the same… Allow me please to quote and list those 10 signs, while I would encourage you all to go and read the entire article. It’s just brilliant as well in how it entices you to do a little bit of a mental exercise and a test to question for yourself how happy you are at work after all… So, to quote them:
- You procrastinate
- You spend Sunday night worrying about Monday morning
- You’re really competitive about salary and titles
- You don’t feel like helping co-workers
- Work days feel looooong
- You have no friends at work
- You don’t care. About anything
- Small things bug you
- You’re suspicious of other people’s motives
- Physical symptoms
Fascinating read that blog post, don’t you think? I bet that vast majority of us have experienced any of those signs at some point in our so-called careers, perhaps some of us are even suffering from any, or several of those, right now, in 2013, at the time where plenty of people keep claiming that in the Social Era employee engagement through social networking tools is going to rule the world and is going to help reenergise employees again. Well, not really. It won’t. It won’t until we get our mojo back and start embracing that culture of Arbejdsglaede. Because that’s what it is all about. It’s that two-way street I talked about earlier on and that I feel is going to be incredibly important over the course of time, if not already.
And how do we get to Arbejdsglaede, you may be wondering, right?, as the golden panacea of Employee Engagement? I have got my very own ideas on the topic, but, instead, I am going to leave it down to the master on the topic. Here’s the blog post that Alex put together where he talked a little bit about his keynote session. Then here is the link where you can download his presentation materials and, finally, here’s the link where you can spend 30 minutes (well worth it, by the way!!) watching the recording of the session where he gets to talk about some pretty compelling conclusions that I thought I would quote over here as well to see them in the wider context of re-engaging back the workforce:
- Make arbejdsglaede your #1 career goal
- Be happy at work – not just satisfied
- Do something about it!
And, finally, my favourite quote on what that two-way street concept for Employee Engagement would be all about not only in the Social Era, but also on the Open Business Era: Do or do not. There is no try!
Who would have thought that Arbejdsglaede would be such a beautiful word and such a magical concept after all, in terms of re-engaging knowledge workers, doing things just right through social technologies, around openness, transparency, meritocracy, caring, empathy, trust and, above all, purpose and meaning.
Well, try now to pronounce it and be ready to chuckle!