The Disengagement Epidemic: Who Can Save Us?

The increasing rate of change and corresponding degree of complexity in the work environment is taking a significant toll on the American workforce. Recently, I had this expressed to me in many different areas of the service industry. Conversations with service providers seem to all be singing the song, “I cannot find anyone to work for me.” Maybe, a different verse might be, “I cannot find anyone who is willing to do the work for what I want to pay.” My version of a different verse is “No one will do the job as I want it done, regardless of what it pays.” That pain was felt this month upon speaking to the 5th landscape company to come for estimating some needed yard work. The work was not hard, but it was complex. Four companies did not call me back nor would they take my calls.

I recently heard the same refrain from an electric power company foreman who said that his new “hands” straight out of technical school, stayed at his small company for 1-2 years and then they wanted to move on to a larger company where the pay was much higher. My hairdresser of 20 years said their salon chairs were empty because they could not get the new hire graduates to stay. The new style of practice is to rent a room in an independent salon and be an entrepreneur. Every carpenter, plumber, electrician, or contractor has said the same thing: “I cannot find anyone to work.” The price of disengagement is high.

The 2019 Global Human Capital Trends (Deloitte) reports fifty-one percent of today’s workforce are dissatisfied with their job. That’s an ominous number as human engagement is linked with profitability and growth for organizations and companies. This epidemic of disengagement can bog us down and create casualties for careers and futures.

In healthcare, it appears that the earlier predictions about the effects of retirement on the workforce is becoming true. Shortages of highly skilled healthcare professionals are evident already in parts of the nation. We have low unemployment numbers everywhere. When that statistic is added to an already struggling healthcare system in a rural or under-served geographic area, the numbers can become catastrophic. Disengagement? No one wants to live or work in your healthcare system? You want to retire to the calm, peaceful countryside? What? There is no hospital, no ambulance, no doctor for 50 miles?

How do we fix this epidemic of disengagement of the workforce? Disengagement can occur because the newest generation of workers view the world much differently than their predecessors. In the new world we must not envision people as ‘human capital’ and land/equipment as “physical capital”. We must recognize that people – not things- have the power to make organizations stop or go.

The second reality in creating an engaged workforce is the creation of energy that gets people excited. William Byham called the energy creators Zappers and those employees that drain the energy Sappers. Finding a leader that is a Zapper will attract and retain the best workforce. Sappers will do the exact opposite. To keep the workforce engaged, you need two Zappers for every one Sapper.  Employee satisfaction makes for happy customers. In other words, employees can take your organization from Bust to Boom, or you could have the slide in the other direction.

Adding this disengagement to the healthcare workforce can increase behaviors that are not tolerable. We need our workers to wash their hands, follow good hygiene, have good patient care, and have a positive attitude. Those professionals will go the extra mile to give the patient a good outcome and will same many lives.

If we want our workers to take ownership of their jobs, produce better results, and provide legendary service to the patient, they must be engaged in the organization and the work. It’s a proven model.


2 thoughts on “The Disengagement Epidemic: Who Can Save Us?

  1. There is no author identified. I have tried to engage on healthcare workplace issues for years. Anything that comes close to identifying manager misconduct and abuses never sees the light of day with the media, professional associations, think tanks or academia. If power people in healthcare are protected, they are thus enabled into purpetuity. No fancy white paper, initiatives or recommended practices will work when the front line continues to operate in fear. Reporting is stymied. Risk to patients goes unchecked.

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