According to Gallup research on employee engagement, one brutal truth that hits companies like a baseball bat to the knee remains: 85 percent of employees worldwide are uninspired and, therefore, don't feel motivated to do their best work.

That eye-popping statement was published in Gallup's 2017 State of the Global Workplace report

So what may be holding your own employees back? To answer that question, start by honestly assessing your management team to truly understand which of their behaviors and elements of your work environment may be crushing the souls of your people.

I hate to say it, but according to Gallup's research, which spans decades, managers remain the primary culprit.

I've found that there's one detrimental management habit that needs to change in order to gain the loyalty and commitment of valued employees.  

Change this habit, change your leadership forever 

Stop treating people as a resource whom you just pay and expect to do their jobs. Start treating them like worthy business partners in the pursuit of a more human-centered workplace.

According to Gallup, human-centered companies that promote the idea of putting people (employees) ahead of profits actually improve business performance over the long term.

How do we pursue more human-centered workplaces? What does that look like, exactly, in practical terms? While I'm tempted to give you a smug "hire, promote, and develop more human-centered leaders!" reaction, I'll point you to three crucial human strategies that I often advise leaders to implement, in line with Gallup's research.

1.  Find your employees' natural strengths to unleash their full potential.

It's a known fact that command-and-control management styles stifle productivity. To go against your tendency to "lord over" your employees, begin allowing them the flexibility to identify, develop, and exercise their God-given abilities, and help them align their roles and responsibilities with their natural strengths.

As Gallup's studies have noted, employees who use their strengths on the job are more likely than others to be intrinsically motivated by their work -- simply because it feels less like work to them.

Addressing the profit versus people debate, here's the clincher to put a smile on senior leaders watching their financial metrics: In one study of nearly 50,000 business units, Gallup found that "work groups that received strengths interventions saw sales increase by 10 percent to 19 percent and profits by 14 percent to 29 percent, compared with control groups."

2. Grant employees greater input and autonomy.

Again, this will require managers to shift their perspective and stretch in areas they've never stretched before. In Gallup's research, it's been found that when employees "strongly agree" that their opinions count at work, they're more likely to feel personally invested in their job.

Higher levels of autonomy, states the Workplace Report, "also promote the development and implementation of new ideas, as employees feel empowered to pursue entrepreneurial goals that benefit the organization -- that is, to be 'intrapreneurs.'"

3. Hire relational managers to carry out positive change.

Gallup's studies and analytics have repeatedly shown that unhappy employees don't leave companies because of their job; they quit because of a poor relationship with a manager.

On the flip side, human-centered managers will naturally gravitate toward developing positive relationships because it builds trust. And when trust is cemented in the employee experience, it maximizes their productivity.

What else do human-centered managers do in the trenches to win the hearts and minds of their people?

  • They spend considerable one-on-one time to listen and understand what makes their employees tick and what motivates them intrinsically--at the core of their being.
  • They design the jobs around their employees' natural talents and assign goals that keep them focused and play to their strengths.
  • They're aware of gender and generational differences in employee expectations, so they develop flexible strategies for engaging each employee accordingly.

So the bottom line of this story, figuratively and financially? It's a story Gallup has been telling us since the dot-com bubble burst. In the best managed, human-centered companies, as many as 70 percent of employees are engaged, a measure that's linked with increases in productivity and other key business outcomes.