How much do you love your job? According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2013 if you’re really engaged at work you’re in the minority. In the US 30% of people report that they are emotionally engaged at work, in Australia and New Zealand it’s 24%, in the UK it’s 17%. Globally only 13% are engaged at work.

According to Gallup, companies that engage their employees report higher profits. There is less turnover of staff and absenteeism, better relationships with customers and suppliers. Engaged employees are more likely to report that their company is expanding and hiring. There’s also a correlation between engaged employees and well-being. People who feel engaged at work are healthier and happier.

What do these companies do differently? It starts with a genuine commitment to people – they treat employees with respect, promote good relationships and help people develop their potential. They build on the strengths of people rather than try to reduce their weaknesses.

Yet unfortunately these workplaces are not the norm.

According to Gallup, the numbers look dire. Globally 63% of people are disengaged with a further 24% actively disengaged from their work. In the US, 52% are  disengaged, with additional 18% actively disengaged. In Australia 60% are not engaged, with a further 16% actively disengaged. In the UK a whopping 26% are actively disengaged, and  57% disengaged. Actively disengaged people are less productive, are more likely to be absent, they negatively influence their colleagues and drive customers away.

The critical factor as to whether a workplace will engage or disengage their workforce appears to be the quality and attitude of management. Most disengaged people report that they have a bad relationship with their line manager – management culture and management skills can make a workplace great or miserable.

So why is this relevant to cities?

Well apart from the lost productivity caused by actively disengaged employees (estimated at $450- $550 billion each year in the US) people who hate their jobs may also talk their city down. 71% of engaged employees rate their city as a good place to do business compared to 53% of disengaged people.

According to Sangeeta Agrawal, Gallup’s workplace research manager,

“Disengaged people are not happy with what they’re doing, and they spread that unhappiness to their peers at work and in their own social circles. Entrepreneurs in those social circles won’t get any boost in their confidence…. from them. But engaged workers spread enthusiasm, which fuels economic power. They themselves are more energized and enthusiastic about the business environment, and they broadcast that enthusiasm to the entrepreneurs they know. And those entrepreneurs are more likely to start companies that, in turn, will create good jobs.”

Can disengaged employees complaining to friends and family generate a culture of pessimism across a city that, in turn, turns off local entrepreneurs?

In a different survey, Adobe interviewed creative professionals (mostly those working in design and technology) in The New Creatives Report. What’s amazing is that 97% say they love their career, 88% feel as though they can influence their workplace and 93% feel that their value is recognised. What stimulates them the most is not money or employer recognition, it’s doing great work and learning new things. They’re happy and optimistic – and engaged.

Imagine the impact these people could have on the atmosphere or success of their city ?

So what are the implications for city leaders? They need to recognise that management cultures of locally based enterprises may be creating an ‘atmosphere’ that supports or detracts from their city.  This may be especially true for towns dominated by large corporations when their management practices are poor.

Gallup’s report isn’t clear as to whether government organisations are included. But many cities are dominated by government agencies. How might the quality of government managers impact on the success of cities? Perhaps even more significantly because government organisations can have both a direct and indirect impact on entrepreneurial spirit in the way they make it easy or hard to do something new.

Yet creative organisations seem to be great at engaging their employees, possibly because their success relies on it. How might these companies influence the feel and success of their city? What lessons do they have to offer other companies and government in how to engage people well?

One implication may be that cities can’t afford to host poor quality companies or sectors with notoriously bad management practices.  And they can’t afford to be bad managers themselves.  Another is that creative companies that engage their people can transform the fortunes of a city.

Sure we need more evidence about all of this.

But imagine a city full of people that love their work? That would be interesting.

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