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By Mary Graves, Ph.D.
May 8, 2014

Forbes magazine called it "The Mother of All Workplace Surveys," and rightfully so. The 2013 Gallup Report on the "State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders" gathered data from 350,000 respondents over a three-year period (2010-2012). An overnight telephone survey it definitely was not!

Some 25 million bits of data went into the report, whose findings are fascinating, far-reaching, and worthy of sustained consideration.

Indeed, I will give the report more consideration through various future posts on this blog, so revealing were its findings and implications for managers and employees. But let's take just one statement from it here for now:

"Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors' brands."

This in itself is a startling statistic, indicating that 59% of American workers—nearly 6 in 10!—can't tell their friends or relatives over the dinner table what their company is about.

Oh, they might be able to say, "We make passenger seats for jetliners," but in terms of the company's larger purposes and unique characteristics (sometimes referred as the "unique selling proposition" or "USP"), it seems that most workers draw a blank.

No knowledge or understanding of a company's reason for being means no pride, no sense of identity or ownership in the company. Punch in, punch out, collect your paycheck, don't give it a second thought.

"In reality, many companies invite a consultant or two in for a few days to help pound out a mission statement and other pieces of corporate identity, only to file the results away in a folder on a dusty shelf or an obscure corner of their website"
Peter Drucker's famous question to managers and employees alike was: "What business are you in?" If you worked for Chanel and answered with "We sell perfume," Drucker said, "Wrong!" The correct answer in his estimation: "We sell hope."

Drucker always admired the janitor at NASA who answered the same question with "We put people on the moon and bring them back safely." The Hybrid Management goal planning sheet starts with that same critical question, from which all else flows.

If ignorance of their company's identity is truly the state of things for 59% of American workers and, by extension, the American workplace, we can look at it two ways: 1) We are in a world of hurt in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, or 2) We are ripe and brimming with untapped potential for improving employee engagement and increasing productivity.

With Hybrid Management always committed to the "glass-half-full" approach to life and work, opting for #2 above is an easy choice..

So: Where do we begin?

One place is by inquiring about the status of your company's mission statement, vision and values. You know: those few sentences or bullet points that ostensibly distill the essence of your company, the ground it stands on, and what it stands for? Seen or heard talk about it lately?

In reality, many companies invite a consultant or two in for a few days to help pound out a mission statement and other pieces of corporate identity, only to file the results away in a folder on a dusty shelf or an obscure corner of their website, never to be discussed again. This is a shame, as Yogi Berra explains clearly in the immortal lines: "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there."

Well-articulated mission statements, visions and values serve as guiding stars that help orient and direct a company's everyday functions and decision-making. Prominently displayed and frequently referred to, they remind employees, managers and owners not only what a company does, but "what business it is in."

It is also critical that corporate visioning activities include the shop floor and cubicles every bit as much as the board room and executive suites. The Hybrid Management model depends on all parties being equally valued and heard. That's the only way corporate America will ever get those 59% of currently disengaged employees on board as articulate and effective ambassadors, fully identified with their companies and committed to their success.

See previous post: How Personal Should Employees and Managers Be


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