Work life has fundamentally changed over the last 150 years. We’ve seen technology evolve how we work, we’ve seen scientific management evolve how we work, we’ve seen Six Sigma evolve how we work. We’ve seen other forms of agility, adaptability, etc., evolve how we work. However, the act of management, the habits, processes, and technologies of management have fundamentally not changed since the industrial revolution. As a result, we are facing an engagement crisis, and I don’t need to tell you that we are also in the midst of a resignation crisis. That’s because work is becoming more incremental, inertial, and inhuman. Fundamentally inhuman.
Covid didn’t cause these crises, but they accelerated the trends, as we were forced home to contemplate our lives and fulfilment. We’ve seen the engagement crisis evident for years in polls such as the Gallup Survey, which indicates that only about 13% of the global workforce are engaged in their jobs, 62% are disengaged, and about a quarter are actively disengaged, meaning that they hate their employment so much that they would sabotage their organisation given half a chance. As dramatically depressing as those statistics are, the real tragedy is that most managers don’t seem to care enough to do much about it. When I share these survey results in front of executive audiences, the most common reaction I see is resigned acceptance: a shrug, a shake of the head, eyes downcast.
We simply have to get angry about this state of affairs in order finally to change it. I would argue that you wouldn’t see this reaction in similar circumstances with professionals other than ‘managers’. If I were addressing an audience of general practitioner doctors and told them, ‘I interviewed all the patients you saw over the past year and their families. Here are the results. 13% of your patients got better. 25% died, and 62% reported that seeing you made no difference to their health whatsoever.’ Those GPs would be up in arms! They would be demanding that the practice of medicine be completely reimagined in the face of these results and particularly if they largely didn’t change year to year. Yet again, corporate managers have grown accustomed to such dire results to the point that they neither act upon nor even dwell on them.
What’s the solution? Not more management! At least not more management in terms of the definition of ‘to control’, but more management in relation to being more human, more empathetic, helping our people, and by extension our organisations to be more relevant tomorrow than they are today. This, I believe is the challenge of leadership in the 21st century: humanising management.
To find out more, please go to my website www.adamkingl.com.