Opinion

OPINION

The Real Energy Crisis

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Turn the page of any paper or turn on any news show and you’ll likely hear about the global energy crisis and soaring gas prices. But the real energy crisis is not taking place in the oil fields of Texas and Iraq or the gas stations of New York and California, but rather inside the people and the companies that contribute to our global economy.

In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. less than 15% say they feel strongly energized by their work and only 20% feel very passionate about their jobs. While part of this crisis can be attributed to management (37% of managers are indifferent to their company’s fate) a big part of the problem can be associated with worker burnout; 42% are coping with burnout while 33% believe they have reached a dead end in their jobs, and 21% are eager to change their jobs.

The cost of fatigue, burnout, and a lack of engagement to corporate America is staggering. The Gallup organization estimates the cost to be $250 billion to $300 billon dollars, while workplace fatigue alone costs American businesses at least $77 billion per year, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

There’s no doubt that today’s employees as a whole are under-engaged, overtired, and overstressed. If you’re not convinced just try to eavesdrop on water cooler conversations. You won’t hear anything because they are not there. They’re hovering around the coffee pot or in line at the corner coffee shop. People are clearly searching for their energy, but unfortunately they are finding it in double lattes, diet sodas energy drinks, and other quick fixes that do not last.

After all, there are more Starbucks then ever but America’s workforce is more tired and less engaged than ever.

The fact is that enhanced energy, success, and performance cannot be found in a bottle or cup of espresso and we cannot replace sleep with a double latte. Just as the world must find alternative sources of energy to oil, it’s clear that Corporate America must look to alternative sources of energy besides coffee to power its workforce.

Instead of energy drainers, American businesses must focus on becoming power generators. Considering that only 31% (strongly or moderately) believe that their employer inspires the best in them, one of the most significant actions business leaders can take is to implement programs and business practices that develop positive, high performing engaged employees and teams that are fueled by purpose and enthusiasm.

Ironically, one of the great role models of this business philosophy and practice is Howard Schultz and Starbucks. From the very beginning Schultz realized and trained his managers that they weren’t in the coffee business serving people but rather in the people business serving coffee. He explained his vision that he wanted to build a company that valued, invested in, and respected its employees. One of the ways Schultz did this was by offering comprehensive health insurance to employees that work more than 20 hours a week.

Now, Starbucks spends more on health insurance then it does coffee beans. Schultz also hosts frequent town hall meetings with management and employees and he personally visits 30-40 locations a week to share his passion, enthusiasm, and purpose with his employees. They receive his positive energy and in turn they share this positive energy with their customers.

Judging from Starbucks growth and sales it is certainly a successful formula. But Starbucks isn’t alone. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence explains that a company with positive employees and a positive culture will outperform their negative counterparts every time. Also, consider that if you would invest in the top 100 best companies to work for, you would significantly outperform the market average. Positive work environments clearly produce positive results.

Thus, the answer to the real energy crisis is not a cup of Joe but the attitude, enthusiasm and energy of the Joe that is employed by your company. If you develop, engage and energize him you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.-

Jon Gordon is s a professional speaker, consultant, and energy and performance coach.

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