“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.”
Aretha Franklin’s legendary recording of “Respect” is timeless and universal. It is an anthem that serves as a wake-up call for anyone who feels unappreciated. While the song is most frequently associated with romantic relationships, in today’s worker-driven economy, it also serves a request made by employees to employers. It’s time for employers to find out what respect means to employees.
Surveys consistently rank respect as the single most important factor in workplace engagement. When employees feel respected, they find their work more meaningful, they focus better, and they are more likely to stay with their organizations. And yet over half of employees report that they do not feel respected at work. That leads to lower engagement, higher turnover, less productivity, and greater health care costs.
Meanwhile, CEOs want employees to feel respected—they know that a culture of respect improves productivity, loyalty, and profits. Creating such a culture may even mean higher compensation for themselves; the higher engagement resulting from respect yields an average 22% higher profitability.
And yet employees are not getting the message leadership thinks they are sending. Company leaders might be well-intended, but the way they are choosing to demonstrate respect for workers is not translating into workers who feel respected.
Ask a group of one hundred CEOs if they respect their workers, and all one hundred of them will raise their hands.
But ask one hundred employees how many of them feel respected by their employers . . . and only forty-six hands will go up.
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