The Future of Work: Engaging Employees to Drive Innovation

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Leadership expert, Will Marré, asserts that workplaces of the future will turn Corporate Social Responsibility into Personal Social Responsibility, which will increase employee engagement and spur strategic innovation. He presents evidence that most employees in the U.S. are not committed to their companies' goals because they don't reflect their personal values. His solution is for leaders to systematically train employees to use their own values to create profitable innovation.

Leadership expert, Will Marré, exploded some powerful myths to an overflowing crowd of senior human resource executives and CEOs at the recent Employee of Choice Forum (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt-DgeLILCY). He shocked the group by stating that companies have missed the point of employee motivation by trying to create "great places to work" instead of igniting motivation from the inside-out. Fred Noble, President of The Noble Group, said, "We need to implement these ideas in all industries."

Marré made his case for continuous sustainable innovation by citing statistics from his own American Dream Project (http://www.americandreamproject.org) research with over 20,000 Americans as well as new studies funded by fifty global companies called the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force (http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/2009/07/how-gen-y--boomers-will-reshape-your-agenda/ar/1) that reveals workers from Gen Y (20-32) to Boomers (50+) overwhelmingly need the same things to be fully committed to their employer's goals.

The research, according to Marré, has powerful insights. He stated, "Although there are many generations in the workforce and they are more racially and culturally diverse than in anytime in history, they all agree on three things." He continued, "Over 85 percent of workers want first, meaningful work that contributes to a better society and healthier environment--work they can be proud to do. Second they want flexible working arrangements including flextime and telecommuting. They want to be judged by results not face time. Third, they want personal growth driven by learning new skills and information."

Marré went on to make the case that most employees do not get these three things from their jobs so they are disengaged from company goals and priorities. In fact, according to Marré, there is a widely reported crisis in employee disengagement. The Towers-Perrin Global Workforce Study (http://www.towersperrin.com/tp/showhtml.jsp?url=global/publications/gws/key-findings_2.htm&country=global) found that engagement has reached what many would call a crisis level encompassing over 70 percent of the workforce and over 50 percent of management. Marre stated, "The financial impact of disinterested employees appears to make many companies increasingly non-competitive with performance gaps in productivity, talent retention and profit margin lagging companies with committed workers by as much as 800 percent."

While the implications of disengagement are widespread, it is hard to combat because, according to Marré, it is impossible for companies to provide employees what they require to be fully engaged over time. What twenty-first century employees want, asserted Marré, is to be engaged in meaningful work that benefits society. This is the biggest driver of engagement. "Under the pressures of business downturns and disruptive competition," stated Marré, "even employees of greatly admired companies get cynical. They keep waiting for their leaders to do something magical while the real magic resides in themselves."

Marré continued, "It is time to enlarge Corporate Social Responsibility to Personal Social Responsibility." He pointed out that no one can promise employees an excellent, personally sensitive boss, friendly colleagues, adequate resources and meaningful work all of the time. Instead leaders must offer people a chance to make their own difference in the service of worthy business goals.

Furthermore, Marré contended that by empowering employees with their own Personal Social Responsibility, doors are opened. For instance, many of the best green initiatives and social innovations come from employees in the middle or the bottom of organizations. "The key," asserted Marré, "is training all employees to think and act in ways that add value to both our future and to our bottom lines. These are aligned goals," Marré insisted. "Meaningful work occurs when workers harness their strengths, interests and creativity to create real value. When that happens, a culture of innovation thrives and people do amazing things no matter what." Marré warned, however, that simply turning employees loose to perform "random acts of innovation" is not enough. He cited specific examples of how training workers to take strategic initiative to add value creates new products and services that drive growth.

Marré received an unusual standing ovation at the end of his remarks. The conference host, Sandy Asch, President of the Alliance of Organizational Excellence, said, "This was the most inspiring, practical roadmap to the future we could ever imagine."

About Will Marré:
Will is an Emmy Award-winning writer, speaker and coach. He is the co-founder and former president of the Covey Leadership Center (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and CEO of the REALeadership Alliance where he helps leaders identify, communicate and implement new socially strategic business models. Will has been a personal leadership coach and advisor to multi-billion dollar global companies such as Disney and Johnson & Johnson. For the past 10 years he has focused on making corporate social responsibility strategic. His book, Save the World and Still Be Home for Dinner will be released in fall 2009.

For more information on opportunities to have Will speak, please visit http://www.WillMarre.com, or for more information on Will's consulting practice, please visit http://www.Realeadership.com. You can also follow Will on Twitter (@WillMarre) and Facebook.

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