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Avoiding the 'Great Resignation'.


Low employee engagement is epidemic! Gallup’s 2021 worldwide survey found global engagement at an appalling 20%. But it gets worse for my Hong Kong readers…employees in Hong Kong are the third WORST engaged on the planet…at a dismal 7%!

Low engagement costs the global workforce a staggering USD$8.1 trillion per annum. If you are a business owner, perhaps the largest and most visible cost of low engagement will be high staff turnover.

A few months ago, we looked at how culture leads to very high levels of ‘employee engagement’ displayed by soldiers of special forces teams. In summary, these elite soldiers feel like they are part of a very special community due to the very strong culture within the organisation.


Aside from culture, there is another very important lens through which to view our employees’ experience…their motivations, or basic human 'needs'.


Maslow’s famous theory of human motivation can be simplified as follows:


  1. SURVIVAL

  2. SAFETY

  3. SOCIAL

  4. ESTEEM

  5. SELF-FULFILMENT

The special forces leadership didn’t sit down and design an organisation which meets all the needs of the members; it basically happened by chance. But we can look out how we can improve the employee engagement within our own organisations by using this example.


Survival and safety…aside from the obvious dangers during wartime operations, special forces soldiers operate in a 'relatively' safe environment (dangers are voluntary and accepted), and are well paid for the hard work they do.


After these two basic levels are satisfied, we move onto the fundamental human need for human connection and social bonds. The special forces soldiers work in close physical proximity, endure much mental and physical hardship together, and play hard together outside work hours. These shared experiences nurture strong bonds between members.

Esteem, or sometimes referred to as recognition. Aside from the formal protocols for awarding military medals, there is plenty of genuine recognition between leadership and team members. Having a reputation as a ‘good operator’ might sound a bit lame, but within elite military units, this adjective is one of the accolades you can receive; it shows you have earned the respect of your peers.


Self-fulfilment. The special forces organisation provides a visible and structured pathway for continued development. The soldiers know that they can remain within the organisation, and will continue to gain responsibility, skills and experience. In short, the organisation allows them to be ‘all they can be’.

Low engagement is probably costing your business a small fortune. By viewing your employees experience through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, can you identify any ways to lift your employee engagement and reduce turnover costs?

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