Meet ‘Malcolm the employee’.
Malcolm sits at his desk at 4:50pm and checks his to-do list:
Yes, that report has been sent.
Yes, he’s finished his slides for tomorrow’s presentation.
Yes, he’s done his timesheets.
All in all a productive day, and he successfully managed to avoid volunteering for the new project his team was discussing earlier, result.
In ten minutes, Malcolm will be out the door and headed home. Tomorrow, he will celebrate fifteen years with the company.
Nobody would say that Malcolm is a bad employee. He does his job and is happy to do so. However, he is comfortable with what’s expected of him and gets away with delivering the bare minimum. He rarely goes beyond the call of duty, attempts to learn new skills, or proactively finds ways to better the business.
Malcolm is a social guy and enjoys a good chat with his mates at work. If you asked Malcolm if he was an engaged employee he would say yes. But in reality that is only partially true. He is merely content, in it for the paycheck rather than worried about job satisfaction.
Don’t leave Malcolm in the middle
Content workers like Malcolm are full of untapped potential. They bear no ill will towards their organisation and have a great deal to offer, but have become complacent over time and have lost the fire that first attracted them to their role.
In today’s competitive, digital world, a company’s success depends on the performance of every one of its employees. When employees thrive, the organisation thrives. At a time when businesses are under immense pressure to innovate and stay relevant, a fully engaged workforce is crucial to their productivity and success.
How can we inspire employees who are merely content to want more for themselves and the organisation that they work for? To begin, managers and HR leaders need to understand which factors separate people who are “happy enough” from those who are genuinely engaged.
This is the aim of new research being conducted by Engage for Success and Ashridge Executive Education, part of Hult International Business School, which is mapping out the factors that make employees feel engaged, disengaged, or somewhere in between. Crucially, rather than just exploring engagement at an individual level, which only paints a partial picture of reality, Ashridge is looking at how team dynamics contribute to the overall employee experience.
Employees like Malcolm fall into what the researchers call the “zone of contentment”. They are categorised by a tendency to churn out satisfactory work and have a positive opinion of their employer, but also by their lack of drive, which has knock-on effects for the rest of their team.
This presents a huge challenge for HR leaders, whose jobs it is to help the business create a more engaging and productive work environment. Essentially, they are being tasked with motivating happy employees to do even more.
Motivation for the content employee
To stimulate content employees, HR teams must map out how these people fit in with their wider teams and help managers understand their impact on everyone’s performance. The relationship between HR and team leaders continues from there as they collaborate on new management approaches, team structures, and training to meet the needs and habits of each worker.
Employee engagement is not a black and white issue. Many workers fall into a shade of grey somewhere in between both extremes, and it is these people companies must focus on if they want to get the most out of their talent. With HR and managers working together to make employees feel a greater sense of purpose in their roles, they can re-inspire even their longest-serving people to give the company everything they’ve got.
Find out how companies can reshape their organisation culture and find new ways to inspire their employees, check out our guide for HR leaders. To get more information on Engage for Success and how they driving engagement in the modern business, visit their website here.