The Gallup Organization has been studying the challenges plaguing the American workforce for many years. They report that only 20% of employees strongly agree that their leaders are setting a good direction; only 15% of employees strongly agree that their leaders are making them excited about the future of their company; and only 13% of employees strongly agree that their leaders are effectively communicating with the organization. Of particular note, their research found that only 33% of our workforce is engaged in the job. Why does it matter if your employees are engaged? We all recognize the disengaged employee: they show up for little more than the paycheck at the end of week, perform the bare minimum of requirements, and frequently poison good employees with their negativity and disapproval of leadership. Engaged employees not only prove to be happier and model a healthy work-life balance, but they perform at higher levels of efficiency and creativity when compared with other workers. Furthermore, an engaged workforce is associated with less tardiness, pilferage, accidents, absenteeism, and other common millstones in the workplace. A small group initiative directly targets employee engagement, supports retention and development of the team, creates a sense of psychological ownership and associated responsibility for the success of the organization.
The disengagement dilemma has not gone unrecognized. Chris Westfall reported in Forbes, June 20, 2019, that an estimated $166 billion was spent on leadership development in the USA last year? alone with plans to maintain or increase this level of spending. While the need and desire for leadership development is at an all time high,data provided by McKinsey offers that most of these leadership programs fail to create the desired results, findings which are supported by Gallup’s research. Technology has changed over the years but human nature hasn’t. Employees have fundamental needs, e.g., those identified in Maslow’s hierarchy; those associated with Deci and Ryan’s Self-determination Theory - autonomy, competence, and relatedness; and a variety of others discovered by learned researchers in the field. America’s leadership industry has failed to recognize human needs in its development programs. In the small group initiative, we have found the solution. These targeted discussion groups founded on humble leadership and relationships of mutual respect and responsibility speak to these critical human needs and provide a psychologically safe venue for learning about fellow employees and the organization one serves.