Relationships matter!

Engagement in the US

Is your job a source of happiness? Do you care about what happens in your workplace?

If you answered “yes”, you are, sadly, in the minority in America. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, only 30% of the workforce is “engaged”, meaning they “are involved in, enthusiastic about, committed to their work” and contribute to their organization in a positive manner (“State of the Global Workplace”, page 21). Perhaps more upsetting than how few people enjoy their jobs is how many are either detached from, or entirely unhappy with, their jobs: 70% of the American workforce finds their jobs more frustrating than fulfilling. Considering how many hours a week people spend at work, this isn’t good for anyone’s overall happiness.

Very Few Positive Role Models

I have a passion for helping people find satisfaction in their jobs (see my previous post, What is Leadership and why do we care?). As such, I am saddened by the state of today’s workforce. It seems that people are not only disengaged from their jobs, but especially from the people they work for and with. Once upon a time, not too long ago, people knew their bosses and vice versa. There’s tremendous value in that: by seeing who your company hires, you can gain insight into your company’s values. Today, however, we seem to have more cautionary tales than examples to follow.

Consider, for a moment, the US Congress. Not exactly a paragon of productivity or positivity. It wouldn’t be stretch to say that the lack of good working relationships has significantly impeded the legislative process. I would offer that the rise of factors that allow legislators to live in an echo chamber (such as social media, fewer days in session, and the increased focus on fundraising) have accelerated the deterioration of those personal relationships. They can avoid differing ideologies and insulate themselves from criticism. While certainly more comfortable for them, the result is a branch of government that is splintered and – to this outside observer – ineffective.

How Things Could Be

At the end of June, ECS Case – a family-owned business that makes products primarily used by the US Department of Defense – hosted its 2nd annual Rogue River Rendezvous (RRR). Created by the VP of Sales and heavily promoted by the CEO, the RRR builds relationships not only between ECS Case and their partners, but also between all of the businesses and organizations that ECS Case interacts with. The RRR is revolutionary because of its 2 guiding principles: 1) We buy from, and refer other customers to, people we know and like; and 2) ALL relationships are important. The RRR builds networks of individuals and companies who are reliable and produce quality results, no matter the industry, because ECS Case knows things get done right when you work with the best. I am a perfect example of how wide this network spreads, for although I, as an Organizational Consultant, will never have need for an ECS Case product, simply by meeting their partners I expand my reach into fields that are usually outside of my professional universe.

Doing It Right

ECS Case is a study in how to do relationships. The typical employee tenure was well above average – I met two employees who had been with the company for over 50 years. I doggedly observed the RRR to determine how that could be, given most employees average only a few years before moving on. The answer I found is simple: they value relationships, which results in employee engagement. ECS Case management have figured out how to bring employees from one aspect of the business into others so that they can all step in and help should all hands need to be on deck. Even upper management are prepped in how to supervise those usually outside their purview.

In short, if companies take care to let all their employees know they’re valued and important, more people will take care to step up and be of value to the companies.

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