45% of people in the United States like their jobs. That’s the depressing conclusion of a recent Conference Board survey on job satisfaction.
Of course, the percentage would surely be much higher if the Conference Board was only measuring employees of non-profits or social enterprises, right? There, the sense of purpose and mission drives people to love their work. Don’t you think?
Hardly. Having a meaningful mission is hugely important but no replacement for organizational culture in determining people’s job satisfaction.
Having started my career in the social sector, I was a bit dumbfounded when I joined corporate America and discovered how many people really liked their jobs.
Half expecting a world of mindless drones and soul-less pragmatists, I soon learned that many corporations, even some in the most mundane lines of business, are actually really good at fostering a sense of community and making their companies fun places to work.
Suddenly, the social sector started to appear a bit pallid and unnecessarily stodgy, full of characters like Robin Williams in the movie “Hook,” who take themselves so seriously that they forget how to fly.
Perhaps it is the lack of a strong explicit social mission that encourages some for-profit companies to try to be more fun. It’s their way of compensating for their inability to connect the everyday work to people’s sense of purpose.
Even if that is the case, it is no excuse for the failure of so many social sector organizations to build community and make work fun.
In the end, productive workplaces – innovative environments that engender high levels of employee engagement and retention – are those that allow people to bring their whole self to work.
By “whole self” I’m referring to our professional skills and deeper interests/desires to do good in the world, yes. But I’m also pointing to our random talents and odd quirks, those parts of us that often only shine through in friendly environments in which we feel comfortable and safe.
If you’re building a social enterprise, take a lesson from Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) and keep this front of mind.
If you’re already leading a social sector organization, do a gut check by asking yourself, Do people have fun at their place of work? Do you often encounter chit-chat and laughter in the halls or at people’s desks? Do employees willingly stay late or choose to hang out with their colleagues after hours and on weekends? Do internal meetings feel more like discussions over coffee or sessions of Congress?
Most of all, always remember that senior leadership drives org culture. Lead by example. Do good work, but don’t forget to have fun.