David Ironside, a manager at the Biosecurity Services Group in Canberra, Australia, wrote to me and invited me to post the following insightful comments, following the shocking news that 84% of workers in the US plan to look for another job in 2011.
Ross Gittins, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, cited work done by Dr Martin Seligman on workplace happiness. The relevant link is here.
Dr Seligman reports that psychologists have identified three kinds of work - the job, the career and the calling.
The differences between these kinds of work boil down to the level of engagement or commitment that people feel towards their work. Money isn't a major factor. Apparently those who follow their calling are happier than those who hold down a job. Well. Who'd have thought?!?
For those of us who work in the public sector, this is potentially very good news indeed. As individual managers we're notoriously limited in our ability to pay good people more money. But the idea of (what I call) 'gilt-edged public service' is one that can be truly inspirational. It doesn't have to cost any more, but it can turn a job or career into a calling.
The idea's dead-simple and exciting. It's about providing excellent service. 'Delighting' our clients. Going way further than what's 'normally' expected, to create incidents that people will remember and smile about all their lives. And doing it, not for more money, not for a bunch of faceless shareholders, but for the good of the community that we're part of.
Dr Seligman says "Individuals with a calling see their work as contributing to the greater good, to something larger than they are, and hence the religious connotation is entirely appropriate." Gilt-edged public service fits the bill.
The challenge - our challenge as public sector managers - is to create an environment that fosters the gilt-edge.
If we can do that, I think we could kiss goodbye to these kinds of figures (84% wanting to change jobs) in our sector.