People & Human Resources

Employee identity is key to workplace productivity

Michel Hogan /

Identity is a foundation of a brand, and so the identities of the people who work at the organisation and who make the promises and deliver the experience have a significant role to play in the result. And organisations are finally waking up to that relationship.

Enter a whole slew of measures, metrics and programs designed to build, grow, turbo-charge, engage and inspire people in work. Which got me thinking, is there a simpler path?

We invest much of ourselves, our time, our energy and our expectations in our work.

For many of us, it’s the way we define ourselves. One of the first things we get asked upon meeting someone new is, “where do you work”. My answer to that question is, “I work for myself”.

But even though I meant the answer literally — I am my own boss — there’s also a broader meaning. I figuratively work for myself as well. The projects I take or don’t take on are for me. My work feeds my mind and spirit (as well as puts food on the table).

I love what I do, which makes me lucky but not alone. Even people who have jobs you might think of as mundane find challenge and engagement in their work. Working for yourself means finding opportunity and challenge in work, even if it is not exactly what you want to be doing.

Organisations who carry the “good place to work” label understand this and make sure everyone can draw some sense of identity and pride from what they do. There is little more valuable and appreciated that can be offered to people. Help them see how their work matters and watch engagement and satisfaction skyrocket.

To learn more about why your employee’s experience matters click here.

The identity we take from our work is the topic of one of my favourite books. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly explores the psychology of optimal experience — what makes us happy. And while many don’t see work as something that could, it is possible with the help of a bit of flow. The book looks at how people become and stay engaged in their work and the way it leads to a deep sense of happiness.

Can it happen to anyone? Or is it reserved for those lucky few who have cool, interesting, challenging jobs in start-ups or tech behemoths? From the book jacket:

“Everyone experiences flow from time to time and will recognise its characteristics. People typically feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities. Both the sense of time and emotional problems seem to disappear, and there is an exhilarating feeling…”

Take a moment to think back over the last few months. Has this happened to you? Have you become so engrossed in something you found hours passed without you being aware? In Flow, Csikszentmihalyi delves into ways to control this state and make it deliberate, and in doing so dramatically enhance a day-to-day sense of fulfillment in your life.

Most importantly it is not about the kind work, but how you engage with it. Examples of welders, farmers, and others show how even jobs people feel are dull and meaningless can deliver a sense of meaning, personal satisfaction and accomplishment.

I know anytime I’m problem-solving with a team of people (the topic doesn’t seem to matter), time just disappears. So to answer my earlier question, it seems there is a simpler path to the relationship between employees feeling good and doing a good job.

Show people what they are doing matters and help them do it well. They might not end up in a perpetual state of flow, but they will be happier. And happier people inside the company is a sure fire way to build a brand that people care about inside and out.

See you next week.

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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