Workforce & Workplace
How to get 70 million Americans to like their jobs again
Michael Norris
Michael Norris

If you’re running a company and you happened to skim Gallup’s recently-released State of the American Workplace report, you perhaps have alegitimate reason to worry about the future.  It finds that, of the approximately 100 million people in America who are employed full-time, only 30 percent are engaged and inspired at work.  That means 70 million people in this country are either “actively disengaged.”  Or, only slightly better, they are just not engaged. Put more plainly, employees have checked out.

“Engagement” may seem like the kind of new age corporate jargon that peppers a keynote speech at a human resources conference, but the idea encapsulates a tremendous deal of common sense, too. There are some people who actually look forward to going to work, and there are others who really, really do not. And, if you are responsible for a company’s future growth and bottom line, it is imperative that you have fewer of the latter showing up in the morning.

How imperative? The studies and findings that support the notion seem limitless. Sticking with Gallup, they found that poor, unengaging leaders who do not inspire or motivate their staffs, are creating an apathetic workforce that costs the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion — annually.  Many executives would shudder to think how much of their own revenues swirl into that black hole each year.

Some argue the answer to the problem is to separate managers who cannot be leaders and to significantly increase efforts to find new employees who are likely to offer passion, as well as expertise. But how? What can reverse this trend of workplace disengagement? Can the disengaged among us be saved? Is there any hope for the American workplace of the future?

The answer is a resounding “yes.”

That is because successful companies can grasp, adopt and celebrate an idea that is still nascent and notional to many: you do not hire engaged people, you create them. And, the key to creating them is to learn how to improve not only their productivity and engagement, but also their Quality of Life.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Consider this: you often hear people say they “feel at home” at a particular place. But they rarely say that about work. It seems a trivial point until you consider that most full-time workers spend more of their waking life at work than they do at home. So why is a phrase that perfectly sums up contentedness reserved only for where we spend arguably the minority of our time? One supposition: if employers build their business model around their people, like we do our homes, and make it a goal to reconcile the individual needs of their employees with the goals of the organization, then what results is an improvement in the employees quality of life, and, ergo, their ability to be productive and engaged.

In practical terms, quality of life provides men and women with reasons to feel better and more respected; it speeds up their progress, and by extension, that of society as well.

With this in mind, Sodexo USA launched a new weekly discussion series on how companies can create a workplace that is as much about living as it is about working. Each week, we’ll highlight workplace news, trends and/or research on factors that impact the employee experience and workplace culture.  Through this discussion, we hope to provide crowd-sourced insight on how smart companies can create a workplace culture that enhances the employee’s experience, facilitates work, increases productivity and even provides inspiration.

Join the weekly discussion on LinkedIn at or on Twitter with hashtag #QOLtopic.

One comment on “How to get 70 million Americans to like their jobs again

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    Joe Zahner says:

    This is excellent! A subject near and dear to my heart. I used to work for a restaurant company who’s mission statment was, “We hire the best and we take care of them”!

    Job satisfaction was very high and so were company profits. The company merged and the mission statement was changed. The first sentence was ” We return excellent profits to our share holders”.

    Job satisfaction went down and so did profits. Coincidence?

    I think a great example of a happy work force is Costco. They opened a Costco near my home in Minneapiolis ten years ago. I see the same employees there that I saw the day it opened. They take care of their people and coincidentally are extremely profitable. Coincidence?

    Love to read blogs like this and I will come back to see what’s next.


    Joe Zahner


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