Performance Breakthrough BookI’ve made a career out of unleashing the untapped potential of workforces at organizations of all sizes. An unengaged workforce costs organizations more than just money: it costs opportunity and can halt growth. If you’re a manager at an organization, it’s easy to recognize an unengaged workforce, but it can seem impossible to reengage them! I’ve written down my secrets for keeping a workforce engaged (or reengaging them!) in the newly released 2nd edition to Performance Breakthrough: The Four Secrets of Passionate Organizations.  I’m pleased to share an excerpt from the book with you here.

I’ve worked with dozens of companies over the last twenty-five years  and, without exception, the largest opportunity for every one of  them was the same. Big or small—from large organizations such as Disney, Levi Strauss, and Polo Ralph Lauren to the local accounting firm, hotel, or plumber—the largest opportunity for improvement was helping people better realize their potential. New strategies, processes, and systems are certainly important, but people will trump them every time.

Gallup Organization research has concluded that only 29 percent of employees are truly engaged in the work they do. This means 71 percent of your employees are trying their best just to get through the day. It also means they would probably not think twice before leaving for a better, or maybe just a different, opportunity.

Think about a 29 percent engagement! That’s like an engine running at less than one-third of its power. How can a team reach its potential, or even come anywhere close, with that level of engagement?

Imagine the impact of injecting more passion into your team.  Imagine a company where eight out of ten people are truly engaged.  What would this mean to your team’s productivity, morale, retention, and ability to recruit top talent?

Imagine a work environment where

  • You are not crushed by the stampede out the door at 5:00 p.m.
  • Team members offer their help without being asked
  • Team members offer their ideas without being asked
  • Team members find ways to get the job done, not excuses for why they can’t
  • Internal celebration replaces internal competition
  • Customer loyalty replaces customer satisfaction

This environment can be your new reality, but it comes with a number of challenges.

Managing for Today and Tomorrow

People don’t quit companies; rather, they quit managers. The days of iron-fisted bosses who run their people into the ground but are rewarded for “making the numbers” are gone. These days, people, not factories or raw materials, are a company’s most valuable resource. Do any of the following sound familiar?

Increased Employee Turnover: In any economy, new technologies and flexible work arrangements have given employees more choices than ever before—and, by the way, your best employees have the most choices, and therefore more reason to leave! Think about the impact that would have on your customers, employee morale, hiring costs, training, and the number of non-gray hairs on your head. If you haven’t begun to see this problem in your organization, you will. If you don’t tackle this problem today, you will pay dearly to solve it tomorrow.

Difficulty in Recruiting: Finding good people is difficult.  Regardless of the current economy, baby boomers hitting retirement age will cause a shortage of people to fill skilled jobs.  Most good candidates will have several opportunities from which to choose. This will cause two types of problems: either your company will be understaffed as you wait longer to fill those open spots or you’ll rush to fill open spots by settling for employees who are not really qualified for the job.

Low Productivity and Profitability: Most people who are not passionate about their jobs don’t quit; they stick around and become the “walking dead.” These zombies look like they’re working, but they probably top out at about 15 percent of their potential. What’s worse is that negative attitudes are more contagious than positive ones. Poor morale is like a cancer slowly killing your organization.

These types of problems usually are brought on by the following:

Overlooking the Most Valuable Resource: Companies make a considerable effort in looking for the next big thing: cutting-edge products, increased automation, new markets, and more efficient processes. However, they spend comparatively little time figuring out how to get a higher return from the most valuable resource  they have: their people.

Accepting Old-Style Management: Old-style management still prevails at many companies. Dictatorial environments include executives who believe employees should be passionate about their jobs simply because they get a paycheck. Even in more forward-thinking companies, leaders know the dictatorial style no longer works but have never been taught how to truly lead people to get optimal results. When employees are asked what is most important to them, studies consistently show that money is not even in the top five. Things like the type of work, respectful treatment, opportunities, coaching, and development are most important.

Failing to Understand Multigenerational Workforces: Four distinct generations make up today’s workforce—veterans, boomers, generation X, and generation Y. While it’s dangerous to stereotype, each generation has its own values, motivations, and work ethic.

The following quotes are typical of boomers:

• “These kids just want everything handed to them on a silver platter. I can’t seem to find a way to get them to work hard.”

• “Doesn’t anyone understand company loyalty anymore?” The following quotes are typical of generation Y:

• “Why should I work my butt off for twenty-five years for one company when there are so many other good opportunities out there?”

• “I didn’t go to school for seventeen years so I could just follow orders. There’s more value I can add, but no one will let me.”

While diversity can be a great strength for any organization, the reality is most companies fail to understand how best to take advantage of these differences.

Your Blueprint for Success

The following pages reveal the answers to these challenges, with the promise of creating a more passionate, productive, and profitable organization. You’ll find that the ideas discussed are not expensive to implement. In fact, many can be executed without spending a dime.

This book’s message is communicated in the form of a fictional story to help make these ideas real and implementable, as opposed to presenting fuzzy concepts. I hope you’ll find it also makes for a more enjoyable read.

Mike Goldman is a nationally recognized speaker, consultant and author of the new book Performance Breakthrough: The Four Secrets of Passionate Organizations. Mike helps organizations of all sizes achieve dramatic business growth. For more information visit: or connect with him on Twitter @MGoldman10.