This post is a snippet of an article written by James Chard of Engaging Minds a leadership development, consultancy based in Asia – Pacific. I think it will speak well to those in China and also serve as a reminder to us all that we need to keep people engaged.
It’s no secret that China is on the path to becoming the world’s economic leader within the next half century. The nation’s economy is expected to continue growing at an astonishing rate, with an expected 2040 GDP of US$70 Trillion—for perspective, the current total world GDP is valued at around US$60 Trillion, with 15 of those trillions belonging to the United States.
Of course, nothing is certain, and a number of factors have the potential to derail China’s momentum towards a position of global economic dominance, including but not limited to; a banking bubble, environmental issues, rising wages, and political instability.
One factor, however, grows more pressing each day as an increasing number of Chinese workers make the transition from minimum wage labor to high-tech industries and office jobs: the pronounced lack of employee engagement in the workplace.
A well-known Gallup study once classified three different types of employees: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. The study determined that engaged employees—those who “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company”—are far likelier to be productive, proactive, profitable and are likelier to stay with their company.
Conversely, unengaged and actively disengaged employees are generally a burden, causing trouble for employees and going about their business with either apathy or downright antagonism.
The root of the engagement issue in China comes from the cultural importance it places on authority and power, a tradition that comes from a long history of Confucian value systems—the result being an overwhelming majority of corporate cultures that are defined by a “command and control” style of leadership.
Many managers in China simply aren’t remotely interested in engaging and developing employees, or facilitating the growth of their company if it doesn’t directly translate to bottom-line or personal gain.
Another, more recent Gallup survey clearly illustrates that the engagement problem in China is not to be underestimated. Although the nation’s workforce has shown incremental improvement (6% of Chinese workers were “engaged” in their jobs in 2012, up from a mere 2% in 2009), there is still a long way to go before engagement in China reaches desirable levels.
By comparison, about 30% of U.S. workers consider themselves to be engaged in the workplace. As growing numbers of Chinese employees find themselves in corporate environments with unskilled managers, and as China’s rapidly expanding economy becomes increasingly dependent on the productivity of its white-collar workers, the engagement problem will only put the country’s stability at greater risk.