How’s Your Job Going and What Are You Doing About It?

Employers strive to better engage and support employees, but career contentment is a larger factor
March 9, 2020 Updated: March 9, 2020

Businesses are implementing favorable changes in the workplace to enhance the employee experience. But before any changes were being made, employees were already doing their part to sustain themselves. Businesses overlook this behavior and the benefits it provides them.

The workplace is evolving. Businesses are making sweeping changes to how employees are managed, developed, and retained. But unlike previous changes that sought to press employees for their best performance, the intent this time is to assist them in becoming their best without pressing them.

This kinder, gentler style of management seeks to improve the employee experience via supportive performance management. Businesses are extending greater trust to employees, creating an enhanced sense of belonging, and proactively supporting them on a continuous basis rather than waiting for problems to arise.

Below are three factors motivating improvements. This is followed by an overview of four changes. Then an explanation is provided as to how employees are contributing to shaping their work experience.

  • Millennials are now the largest of any generation in the workforce. As businesses became familiar with their values, changes became necessary to successfully attract and assimilate them.
  • Low unemployment and a hot job market are fueling the potential for talent wars, particularly tech skills. To compete for and retain top talent, it became necessary to adopt an employee-centric culture.
  • Stress and depression are associated with poor supervision, job demands, harassment, and discrimination. If employees are not supported on a continuous basis, these threats to their mental and emotional health have the potential to become a drain on productivity.

Summary of Changes

The following changes would normally take years to reach critical mass. But employers like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, Ralph Lauren, Adobe, and Airbnb have provided models that other businesses replicated without the usual wait and see attitude.

  • Management is improving its openness in downward communication. This is to elicit more trust from employees in their upward communication. It’s also hoped this will enable both to get closer, more personalized, and authentic in their relationships.
  • The annual performance review is being replaced by managers providing continuous coaching and feedback. Instruments to accomplish this are currently in use. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital report found that 70 percent of businesses are now using some type of continuous performance management.
  • Employee development is a rising priority, but don’t expect to sit inside a classroom. Training is morphing with the expanded use of short burst microlearning. To meet the Millennial demand for more training faster, businesses are using customizable software, games, podcasts, videos, and webinars.
  • Further facilitating employee development is how businesses are personalizing job duties to accommodate individual strengths. The HR Trend Institute refers to this as job crafting. The idea is to capitalize on a person’s motivated skills and their natural engagement in work they believe fulfills their individual purposes. In addition, more emphasis is being placed on working remotely and balancing social time with family and friends.

Employee Contributions

Unfortunately, these improvements haven’t caused all employees to become more satisfied with their work experience. Not yet, say Gallup, Career Builder, and The Conference Board. Over half of employees are still dissatisfied and disengaged just like they were last year and the year before that.

This persistent dissatisfaction begs a question: What have employees been doing to stay productive in jobs they apparently want to keep despite their lack of satisfaction?

The answer reveals what employees control to help shape their work experience and how this contributes to their productivity and retention. Businesses overlook this valuable behavior because they’re focused on what they control.

Even if employees don’t realize it, they’ve been leveraging their control of career contentment to maintain a contented inner work life. This term is used by psychologists to describe an employee’s thoughts and emotions related to work and the resulting motivation it provides them.

Career contentment is the emotion created when employees think their work is meaningful to their values and purposes for working. And this emotion motivates their decision to stay in a job they want and cope with their dissatisfactions. This is what’s been happening and it still is.

An employee’s contented inner work life isn’t dependent on being made satisfied or improvements to their work experience. Although this helps, the emotion of contentment is dependent on an employee’s control of their thoughts. And whatever improvements are made are always subject to an employee’s thoughts about them.

So even if businesses don’t recognize the value of an employee’s contented inner work life, this plays as much a role as anything in defining and shaping their work experience.

Businesses deserve credit for the changes they’re continuing to make and employees deserve credit for their efforts to sustain themselves while contributing to their productivity and retention.

Imagine the benefits to a business that used microlearning to teach employees how to intentionally create and maintain a contented inner work life. Developing this ability is the root foundation of improving both employees and their work experience.

Jeff Garton is a Milwaukee-based author, certified career coach, and former HR executive and training provider. He holds an MA degree in organizational communication and public personnel administration. He is the originator of the concept and instruction of career contentment. Twitter: @ccgarton