Three basic human satisfiers of hope, control, and equity are essential to building employee engagement (How to Boost Workforce Engagement). Happy talk and inspirational posters do not realistically increase team engagement. You must address their reality and help them develop concrete ways to feel more in control. So, let us begin by looking at a fundamental truth and a few realities (you can skip the realities if you just want to get to the inspirational SOLUTIONS part of this article).
FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH: Your only real security in life is your own employability. It is based on the perceived value you provide to an employer.
CURRENT REALITIES: Despite good economic news many workers do not feel very secure. 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank, while 34% have no savings at all. A recent survey by CareerBuilder showed 78% of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck and 56% were in debt over their heads.
By most accounts, the U.S. economy is doing well. We have had nine years of a rising stock market and national unemployment is quite low. That is great but let us be realistic. Nationwide statistics do not really help you personally. When you are out of work, your personal unemployment rate is 100%. Though the market is doing well, personal income and savings are not keeping pace with the rising costs. To understand the source of anxiety, bear with me while I get a little wonky and drill into the numbers a bit deeper.
The 3.9% U.S. unemployment rate that was just reported for July 2018 is only one way of measuring the job market. It only looks at people unemployed 15 weeks or longer as a percent of the civilian labor force who are still receiving benefits or actively looking for work. It does not account for the ones working below their capabilities, in part-time positions, or working multiple jobs to get by without any benefits. To get a better sense of the job market, look at what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls U-6.
The U-6 unemployment rate combines ‘total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers’.
That U-6 unemployment rate is 8.1% nationwide and as high as 13% for some states. This is more than double the reported rate. The U-6 does not even include the over 5 million Americans who are not counted in the labor force but want a job. These nationwide numbers also do not account for variations by age, race, and education. According to one job coach, a person over 50 will spend between 6 months and two years looking for a job.
I put this data out there to make the point that having a job does not guarantee you will keep the job and looking for work does not mean you are going to find a job you want and need. You can improve your job security and employability in understanding your Value Proposition.
SOLUTION: You are most hirable when you can demonstrate to your employer how you add value. Nobody hires you because you need a job. They hire you for one of the three reasons:
- You make them more money than you cost them.
- You save them more money than you cost them.
- You solve problems they have which allows them to make more money than you cost them.
Simply put, employers look at you and make a calculation of how much value you add. When a current or future employer cannot easily make that connection, they are going to actively weigh their options regarding your employment.
I recently asked a maintenance team if the firm’s customer was willing to pay for their services. Every one of them said, “Absolutely.” I disagreed, the customer was buying the product, not their services. They fundamentally did not understand that they were a business cost, not a source of profit. Before you get upset, think about it. If the machinery was perfect and never broke down, there would be no need for maintenance. It is an overhead cost. If the firm could reduce their costs by outsourcing or automating the maintenance function, they would do it in a minute. Defining how proper maintenance saves money in reduced downtime and increased reliability reassures the employer that the cost is justified. Demonstrating how internal staff increases response time because the team is available, trained, and experienced with the firm’s equipment reduces the chances that the employer will downsize or outsource their jobs. Showing how the team adds value and connecting their activities directly to the business’ bottom line also increases their own sense of pride and ownership in the business. Pride and ownership are strong indicators of employee engagement!
Next week, we will continue our discussion by showing how a shared value proposition aligns multiple departments and reduces conflict.