Apathy: The Performance Culture’s Greatest Threat

157987176Two studies released this summer continue to point toward a workforce with dismal satisfaction rates. The annual Job Satisfaction survey by The Conference Board shows job satisfaction remains below 50 percent. In addition, Gallup’s 2012 State of the American Workplace found that only 30 percent of employees are engaged.

While there may be some industries that can still thrive with that low level of employee satisfaction, I can assure you that staffing isn’t one of them. Most staffing companies rely on the merit of their teams including their willingness to consistently tackle their job with passion and focus. Anyone can feel this passion and focus when they walk into a staffing company with a strong performance-driven culture. The opposite is also true. A weak performance culture can feel more like a trip to the DMV, instead of a driven sales organization.

Recent thought leadership trends have focused primarily on leveraging data to improve operational performance. While the ability to manage data must play an important role in staffing, I believe the reliance on data is a key culprit in draining the energy out of the industry. Staffing leaders must learn to balance the value of data with the value of a well-connected culture that is motivated by shared goals and strong relationships. Data provides critical insight, but it is the staffing manager’s job to turn that insight into behavior. Establishing the right behavior is a skill that is more an art than a science.

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Creating a performance-driven culture in staffing varies from company to company, but there are some areas all leaders should honestly evaluate:

A shared belief system that is both real and obtainable. Do you have a clear business philosophy, and is it communicated? Is your organization built in a way to win based on that philosophy and does your team know their role in achieving that goal? Does your team not only believe that you can win, but also that you should win?

Strong leadership that is both educated and influential. Can your leaders identify the root causes of performance problems? Can they coach and motivate your team past both tactical and strategic obstacles? Does your leadership team understand how they are perceived and adjust their style accordingly?

Culture should energize employees. Does your team enjoy working at your company or are they working solely to better enjoy their life outside of work? Are they proud to work for your company?

None of this is new. Business leaders have been talking about the role of mission, vision, and values to in answering most, if not all, of the questions above. However, I believe that the required pursuit of efficiency over the last decade has led many of us to forget that the greatest differentiator in a people-driven industry is a well-trained, motivated sales and recruiting team. Creating teams that are energized and focused is the responsibility of management.

To many leaders energizing the culture may seem daunting, but the good news is that the vast majority of employees are open to embracing change if it means greater success and satisfaction in the long term. I have seen offices transform their cultures with the proper focus and determination from management bringing a more productive and enjoyable environment for everyone involved. It can be done.

The alternative is an apathetic workforce whose primary focus is to work just hard enough to support a lifestyle or worse, just hard enough not to get fired.

MORE: Keys to talent attraction, retention and engagement


Mike Cleland

Mike Cleland
Mike Cleland is president of Charted Path. He can be reached at mcleland (at) chartedpath (dot) com.

Mike Cleland

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