Ari on Business

The Energy Crisis in the American Workplace

Or, Why Ignoring The Natural L
aws Of Business Is A Recipe For Big Trouble

Ever found yourself frustrated, wondering almost aloud:

– What’s wrong with all those employees? Why don’t they get it?
– Why don’t more people start to innovate?
– What’s keeping employees from being more creative?
– What’s wrong with the economy? What’s keeping things from getting going?

I don’t want to overplay the point. I’m not big on telling others what they ought to be doing. What follows isn’t an admonition, merely an observation. By operating in violation of the Natural Laws of Business the country’s workplaces are suffering a very serious energy crisis.

You don’t need to be an expert to see what I’m talking about with this image; the energy crisis is about as obvious as anything can be. Go into most any business other than the really great ones and you know and I know that the place is going to feel . . . flat.

If you doubt my doom and gloom, energy crisis assessment, take a look at this data from a Harris Poll cited in Dean Tucker’s great book, Using the Power of Purpose. Seriously—check this out. Of those surveyed:

Only 37% of employees clearly know the company’s goals
Only 20% are enthusiastic about those goals
Only 20% could say how they could support those goals
Only 15% feel like are enabled to work towards ‘em
Only 20% fully trust the company they worked for

Thanks to Dr. Tucker, I realized it was actually worse than I thought when I read the polling numbers the first time through. He had the deft wisdom and wit to suggest that one translate that workplace data into what it would mean for a football team. Of the eleven players who get sent out onto the field:

Only four actually know which goal they’re going towards
Even more depressing, only two of them actually care
Only two know which position they’re supposed to be playing when they get on the field.
Only two guys on the team feel like their efforts on the field could actually make a difference.
And all but two players would be just as likely to be rooting for the other team as their own.

Hello! OMG! Insert all the expletives you’re comfortable composing, and then add a couple more for good luck. *!@#&*!!! American business is paying people (often with lots of benefits) to work at somewhere between 15 and 37 percent of capacity. They show up, they get paid, they do work, but the truth is that they’re operating as if their batteries were on low.

The good news, though, is that it’s actually fairly easily repaired at, believe it or not, almost no cost.

Here at Zingerman’s, I think the number one reason we’re able to keep our energy up (and, with it, our productivity, creativity, and day-to-day satisfaction in our jobs) is because we work every day to live according to the natural laws of business. We are tapping the full energy of the people who work here, and getting way better results in the process.

I know that, for folks that have been doing business differently for a long time, starting to live the Natural laws might be easier said than done. It’s not just some switch you throw, or a new supplier to simply start buying from. But, emotionally challenging as it may be, I truly believe from the top of my head to the bottom of my heart, that that is the solution to the energy crisis in the workplace.