I inspire purposeful engagement in meaningful work. In business settings, I see this as a three-part equation:
1. The organization’s role in providing a safe, responsible, resourced environment.
2. Management practices and culture that support productivity and engagement.
3. Individuals who are skilled in and accountable for their own motivation and engagement toward the work in which they’ve chosen to participate.
There’s literally a ton of guidance available on the first two. It’s this last one that has me thinking.
In the workplace, I’ve found what I think is the best thing since sliced bread to build these skills – to build the self awareness, resilience, and talent-driven initiative in employees to meet business goals. But what if we could get them earlier? How are engaged employees made? Where do they come from?
Enter: Value Stream Mapping. Wikipedia says that Value Stream Mapping is a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze the flow of materials and information currently required to bring a product or service to a consumer. At Toyota, where the technique originated, it is known as “material and information flow mapping”. It can be used in any process that needs an improvement.
Our Process Needs an Improvement
The engaged employee is the product. The new workplace is the consumer. The new economy is the market.
What is the flow of materials and information currently being used to bring an engaged employee to the workplace in this new economy? I contend that there isn’t any. Or at least not that much. And definitely not on purpose.
Employees come from college (or not) and high-school (or not) and elementary school (usually) and homes (arguably). Where in that value stream do we intentionally build capability in self awareness? Resilience? Identification of unique personal talent? Articulation of one’s contribution? At best these are electives.
Why That’s Not Okay
In an industrial economy, that was fine. There wasn’t much call for multi-career adaptability or innovation-at-all-levels initiative. But the new economy and workplace demand it.
More importantly, recent research shows that these skills are physiologically imperative to lasting motivation and engagement and, ultimately to the achievement of gratifying work. We literally cannot learn, grow and adapt if we are not resilient in the face of challenge. We cannot be as productive, innovative and satisfied if we are not actively applying our natural talents to our work. The research also shows that we can build greater self-efficacy and, that by doing so, we can more reliably tap into and even achieve our potential.
How to Improve the Process
1. As business leaders, students, parents and educators we have a responsibility to respond to the new demands of our economy, workplace and workers. (Download Llama Groomer workshops and curriculum 01212011 PDF to see an example of what I mean)
2. Skills in self-efficacy and being accountable for tapping one’s potential (we could call it “self-actualization” if that didn’t sound so woo woo but check out the definition – it’s not so far fetched!) should be introduced earlier and developed purposefully throughout individual’s development.
3. The idea of “success” should be broadened to include the many career paths our new economy allows now – including those that do not require college preparation, those that are better supported by a trade education or those that could be attained with a new track of entrepreneurial or business basics.
4. Organizations should demand, hire for and manage performance to these self-efficacy and self-actualization skills so that those in their employ are purposefully engaged in meaningful work.
It just means bringing your best self to what you choose to do. What do YOU think?