Two Ways to Encourage Employees to Bring Their Whole Selves to Work

"The question isn't whether we get it, the question is whether we practice it. And do we have the courage to do that,” asks speaker and thought-leader Mike Robbins as he wraps up his TED Talk, “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”. What he’s referring to is our ability, both individuals and organizations, to create an environment where people thrive. Leaders and employees alike “get it”, but it takes a lot of courage, vulnerability, and initiative to implement the practices and resulting culture that foster employee success. This topic of bringing one’s whole self to work is a personal passion of mine: maybe it’s because I’m a Millennial; maybe it’s because I’ve had one too many leaders who don’t hold this dear.

Mike’s definition of bringing one’s whole self to work, one I whole-heartedly agree with, goes as follows: “What it really takes for us to be fulfilled and successful is an ability to bring our whole selves to work. All of who we are. All the gifts, all the talents, the fears, the doubts, the insecurities…the things that matter most to us.” Sometimes that means being imperfect, stubborn, and anxious. Other times it means being confident, ambitious, and outspoken. Whatever you are, bring it.

"Whatever you are, bring it."

This “bring your whole self to work” notion isn’t just a lofty ideal, either. The data shows that being yourself is a crucial element to employee engagement. A 2016 Gallup report which combined over 30 studies and 1 million respondents, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” revealed that only 29% of Millennials are engaged at work. Gallup CEO Jim Clifton identified six themes that contribute to Millennial engagement. We’ll focus on the two that connect directly to bringing one’s whole self to work:

  • “Millennials care about having managers who can coach them, who value them as both people and employees, and who help them understand and build their strengths.”
  • “Employees are asking, ‘Does this organization value my strengths and my contribution? Does this organization give me the chance to do what I do best every day?’ Because for millennials, a job is no longer just a job — it’s their life as well.”

The impacts of low engagement on business outcomes are well-documented, but these Millennial-driven work priorities need to be taken more seriously than ever before. According to Gallup, Millennials could make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

So, what can organizations do to make sure their employees work in an environment in which employee success and individuality are championed?

1. Get to know your employees’ unique strengths and goals

In my previous blog post, “Three Ways to Foster Employee Success By Identifying the ‘Why’”, I discussed the importance of employees connecting in a deeper way to their jobs than just a paycheck. A lot of that has to do with employees leveraging their strengths in their roles, and seeing how their contributions impact the greater organization. According to Gallup, “Each person's potential extends well beyond his or her job description. And tapping that potential means recognizing how an employee's unique set of beliefs, talents, goals, and life experiences drives his or her performance, personal success, and well-being.” Connect your employees’ strengths and goals to their professional development and watch performance and engagement soar.

"Connect your employees’ strengths and goals to their professional development and watch performance and engagement soar."

2. Promote nurturance

Now, I’m not trying to start a dialogue here about Millennial entitlement. Nurturance, according to Mike Robbins, involves, “Being seen. Being heard. Being valued. Being appreciated not just for what [employees] do, but for who they are… For it being safe...to disagree. To take risks.” Mike points out that as individuals and as organizations, we often have the tendency to have either high expectations or high nurturance, not both. In order to create an environment where employees thrive and feel comfortable “speaking their truth”, though, we have to strive for both.

Now, I’d like to throw in a bonus here; a way each of us can bring our whole selves to work everyday:

3. Have courage.

Remember that definition from Mike? “All of who we are. All the gifts, all the talents, the fears, the doubts, the insecurities…the things that matter most to us”. There is more to it, and it is so important: “but what that involves for us…is actually a lot of courage".

It can be tempting to drop who we are at the door and pick it back up again when we leave, but if we truly want to be engaged and successful at work, we have to find that courage to be just a little bit vulnerable.

"We have to find that courage to be just a little bit vulnerable."

We’d love to hear how your organization creates an environment where individuality thrives and employees are engaged. Take our Employee Success Quotient Survey to be included in our study and see how your organization compares.

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