September 18, 2011

Bringing The Marriage Back Into Our Jobs

Federal Times (11 Sept 2011) reported on a human capital study done by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and Deloitte that found that "after the three-year [employment] mark, employee' satisfaction scores plummets" from 77.2 the first year to 66.2 after the third year.

Tim McManus, the VP for PPS underscored the significance of employee dissatisfaction on productivity and retention, when he stated that "it's more than just the end of the honeymoon period; your marriage is on the rocks."

For sometime now, we have been hearing about the high frequency of job changing for Gen Xers and Yers; this week, I actually heard of someone who had changed jobs literally 50 times before the age of 30!

Certainly, I would imagine that living in a high-tech, fast-paced culture that we do now, contributes to the number and rate of job changes, where people are looking for lots of responsibility and recognition in short order or they simply move on. There is a notion that life is too short to waste it in an unproductive or unfulfilling job.

Further, the poor economy, where layoffs have become commonplace has likewise contributed to an employment culture where employers and employees no longer feel beholden to each other, and each is looking out for their own best interests rather than their mutual success.

Unfortunately, what is getting lost in this employment picture is the notion of career. To employers, a person has become a human capital asset--kept on-board only as long as they remain more of an asset than a liability. And correspondingly, to many employees a "job is just a job" now-a-days--it is a temporary phenomena for X hours a weeks for "as long as it lasts," rather than a long-term place for personal and professional growth.

In a class this week, I had the privilege of hearing a terrific career development officer discuss the lifecycle of a job, as follows:

1) Steep Learning Curve -- We all go through it...can anyway say, "how do you use the copy machine?"

2) Strong Expertise -- This is the point where we are really excelling...we have become subject matter experts and are valued for that expertise.

3) Losing Your Edge -- At a certain point, people start to lose interest, performance, or get out of sync with their boss or the organization.

4) Hitting Rock Bottom -- If there is no course correction, employees who have "lost their edge" go on to become restless and dissatisfied and risk a precipitous decline.

Picture step 4 as a potential big SPLAT.

Most people start off their careers "bright eyes and bushy tailed," but at some point, if they are not well-managed, they become discouraged, disillusioned, demoralized and so on.

Obviously, this hurts the organization and the employee--both suffer when the two are out of sync. However, employees may change jobs at any stage in the lifecycle of a job, but the later stages become more painful for boss and employee.

So as leaders, are there things we can do to keep job satisfaction scores high or does the very notion of a lifecycle of a job mean that eventually "all good things must come to an end"?

I think we certainly can do things to make for a longer and more fulfilling job life cycle--training and career opportunities, ethical management, good communication, recognition and rewards, mentoring and coaching, work-life balance, treating people fairly, and more.

At the same time, even in ideal situations, people, organizations, and markets change, and we must change with them. It is important to recognize, when things have changed inside ourselves and our organizations, and when it's time to make a change outside in the job market. This is healthy when it's done for the right reasons and when it results in new opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute.

Every situation brings new challenges and opportunities and we need to meet those head-on striving for job satisfaction, working through times of dissatisfaction, and recognizing life cycles are normal and natural--we are all human.

Good luck!

(Source Photo: here)


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