U.S. workers don’t love work and struggle to love life. And it shows.
70% of U.S. Workers are not engaged at work and of those, 18% are actively disengaged, meaning they are “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.” (1)
As we have all heard and probably seen, employee engagement affects employee turnover, absenteeism, productivity, customer loyalty and more. This is why employee engagement has been part of the business conversation for a very long time. It is good for the bottom line, but organizations struggle to crack the code on how to significantly increase employee engagement and keep the numbers high.
While America’s track record with engagement would suggest the problem is universal and unsolvable, it seems the Danes have figured it out. They even have a word for it – “Arbejdsglaede.”
“’Arbejde’ means work and ‘glæde’ means happiness, so ‘arbejdsglæde’ translates roughly to ‘work glad’ or ‘work joy’. The only equivalent phrase in English would be ‘job satisfaction’, or ‘workplace happiness’. Neither seems to fully embrace the spirit of the arbejdsglæde.” (2)
One key difference between our poor English equivalents and the Danish word for work joy is ownership. In the U.S., employee engagement has been the work of HR teams, leadership and the boardroom, and they have owned the solution. In Scandinavia, work joy is up to the individual employee. In a country that seems to have embraced William Ernest Henley’s famous stanza, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”, Americans curiously seem to abdicate their helm when the ship is their own joy at work.
Perhaps we have been lulled into believing that it is an organizational problem and we have no power to change it. But, that isn’t true. In spite of the complexity of the typical attempted solutions to employee engagement by organizational leaders, the key to joy at work is simple and it is held in the hands of you and me.
Alexander Kjerulf, a Danish author and employee engagement expert explains that the formula for workplace happiness comes down to two essential ingredients: results and relationships. Results mean that employees know they’re making a difference at work, know their job is important, are proud of their work and are getting appreciation for it. Relationships mean liking the people you work with, having a good manager and feeling like you belong. “In short, we are happy at work when we do great work together with great people,” Kjerulf writes. (2, 3)
That is the very solution that People Acuity is focused on bringing to the world and we’ve found a fellow-thinker in Kjerulf.
We are about revolutionizing results and relationships. The dramatic improvements we help people make in both relationship and results affects not only Arbejdsglaede (or engagement) but also productivity, well-being, leadership, teamwork, performance for organizations. And, the three things people care about – love, life and happiness.
So, let’s bring our own version of ‘Arbejdsglaede’ into our language, our work and our lives! How do you think we should translate Arbejdsglaede into English?
(1) State of the American Workplace by Gallup, Released February 2017
For more information about how to create an engagement strategy for your own life, team or group, request a consultation with one of our strategists by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: this blog was written by DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs, the People Acuity thought leader team.
DeAnna Murphy, a 23-year organizational development veteran and CEO of People Acuity, has led the 7-year research process with the People Acuity Analytics team. It has involved over 10,000 individuals around the globe participating in original qualitative and quantitative research, exploration of over 1,000 academic and practitioner articles, top-rated marketing reports, and analysis of 200 of the best-selling books in leadership, self-help, business, and psychology. People Acuity, an affiliate of Strengths Strategy, is in 31 countries, and includes over 300 practitioners across the globe.
Lisa Gregory is a thought leader and Manager of Product Development and Delivery at People Acuity. With 17 years of business experience as a trainer, coach, advisor, entrepreneur and corporate leader, Lisa has extensive experience in learning and development, at both strategic and implementation levels. She has worked with leaders in 80 percent of the Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies and has broad and deep knowledge of the challenges facing top executives, employees, and managers as they strive to bring their best to an organization and to their own lives.
Steve Jeffs is the Chief Scientist, Senior Faculty and is co-leading the international expansion of People Acuity. Integral to the People Acuity Analytics team, Steve recently presented the validation of our Foundations of Interdependent Teams Scale at the World Congress of Positive Psychology. He is a registered Psychologist, multi-award winning Executive Coach, energetic facilitator and scientist. Fascinated by interdependence and synergy, Steve is completing his Doctorate in this field, and applies this learning, consulting with organizations and in Executive Coaching with Senior Organizational Leaders around the world. Steve lives in Dubai, UAE, and operates globally.