Relight That Work Fire

Organizations with low engagement must show the best is yet to come.

Having celebrated my 75th birthday last year, people often ask me if I plan to retire. I always respond with a line I borrowed from my friend Zig Ziglar: “I’m not retiring — I’m refiring!” Zig passed away a couple of years ago but wowed audiences well into his 80s.

Research confirms that regardless of age, people who embrace life with gusto enjoy better health and more happiness and fulfillment. The same can beapplied at work. When people can enhance relationships, stimulate their mind, revitalize physically and grow spiritually in the workplace, it brings passion to their work. Yet many people who’ve been in a job for a while see the days ahead as something to endure rather than an exciting opportunity.

According to Deloitte’s “Global Human Capital Trends 2014,” leaders are struggling more than ever to engage the 21st century workforce. Around the world, millions of workers have resigned themselves to doing their jobs at a basic level, but are sullen and unmotivated in a quiet way that can be hard to remedy.

I gained some insight about increasing engagement on the job while I was working on my most recent book, “Refire! Don’t Retire.” The book idea came about when my co-author, Morton Shaevitz, and I began to wonder why so many people take the “best is behind us” approach to life. We looked at people who love life and compared them with those who were struggling.

Our findings revealed that when people think differently in four key areas, they behave differently. Those behaviors led to greater engagement and satisfaction, and when people thrive, organizations thrive.

Refire intellectually. Workers aren’t just hired hands. They have brains, too. Continuous learning is vital to organizational health. Companies like Apple and Google offer stimulating environments, free educational seminars and tuition reimbursement. Leaders need to refire intellectually, too. As I’ve often said, when you stop learning, you might as well lie down and let them throw the dirt over you because you’re already brain dead.

Refire emotionally.Getting back to those hired hands, they have hearts in addition to brains. Everyone needs emotional nourishment. Our research shows that people who have friends at work are happier, more loyal and more productive. The most successful leaders create opportunities for meaningful connection at the office. Offer workshops, retreats and celebrations, and encourage work friendships. For example, Halloween is a big deal at our company. People dress in costumes and carry on in a big way. Creating an emotionally connected culture not only gives people a morale boost, but also it increases innovation and collaboration.

Refire physically.Work requires energy, and energy comes from having a healthy body and a sense of well-being. While many organizations give lip service to wellness, those that back up their claims with health-friendly policies enjoy higher levels of employee engagement and productivity. Sufficient vacation leave, reasonable workloads and wellness education programs need to be implemented, not just talked about. Get creative by instituting walking one-on-one meetings, after-hours yoga classes or lunch-and-learn sessions with guest speakers. Offer bicycle parking racks and flex scheduling to encourage employees to take time for fitness. This year, our company was elected one of the best places to work in San Diego. Our wellness activities were one of the big reasons for the award.

Refire spiritually. I refer to spirit in the universal sense of the word. Boredom and dissatisfaction spring from a focus on self, so give people an opportunity to focus on something outside themselves. As chief spiritual officer for our company, I leave a morning message every day to praise and inspire people. Leaders who provide opportunities for giving and spiritual growth help people understand that it’s not all about them. For example, we encourage employees to take up to 40 paid hours a year to donate their time to charitable organizations.

By encouraging behaviors that refire people intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually, and by modeling these behaviors themselves, leaders can inspire people with the idea that life is good — and the best is yet to come.