What does it take to (dis)engage young professionals?
This article was originally published in Hamilton Media Guild, December 1, 2013.
#HIVEX conference takes a two-prong approach to understand what makes the city’s key demographic “click.”
Doing your job well requires energy and focus.
If you have little idea how to make a meaningful contribution and fit into your workplace, you can easily become disengaged.
“If you have tons of energy, but no idea on what to do, that’s work [for you]” said for Charlie Hendershott, in his tongue-in-cheek keynote address at the 2013 #HIVEX conference Saturday morning.
The 55-year-old Hamiltonian has had many encounters and meetings with senior leaders in his 35 years at ArcelorMittal Dofasco, where they think a lot about employee engagement.
From his work, Hendershott said he has learned that disengagement is created when employees have a sense of meaninglessness, there is an apathetic climate and they feel a lack of ownership in their work. Employees will tune out in a workplace where passion is disregarded and tasks are irrelevant, he added.
These things depersonalize the work experience, said Hendershott, senior executive consultant at Dofasco, to about 240 young entrepreneurs and professionals who turned out at the Sheraton Hotel for the day-long conference.
The key factor for engagement is a sense of ownership. Hendershott has spent 15 years creating what he called a “team environment” at Dofasco.
“Teaming is all about getting people involved, to get people interested,” he said, as employees need to feel that they are making progress and a difference in the community.
He told the young professionals to seek meaning in their work.
“Find your hat which succinctly separates you from everything else,” said Hendershott.
They moved from table to table for 10-15 minute conversations on various topics, including neighbourhood development, retention of international students and participatory budgeting.The discussion on engagement came full circle at the citizen builder workshop. The “speed-dating” style session included representatives from non-profits, community agencies and members of city council. From the women-focused YWCA Hamilton to the art-based Cobalt Connects, the session had more than 10 representatives.
Nii Addo, a Ghanaian native, found the discussion on volunteerism stimulating.
A recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Foundation, Addo spent much of his youth in Ghana taking part in Rotary-sponsored walks, a longstanding family tradition. The recognition is given to any individual who has contributed $1,000 (US) to the foundation.
Volunteering offers a sense of community, said Addo, who came to Canada in 1998 and then pursued a bachelors in economics and business at McMaster University in 2003. He has since established his own business, The Addo Group, which sells construction equipment.
Public art also helps build community. Rhiana Ehara, of Sakana Media, said public art is a way of communicating to and welcoming newcomers.
“I know what it is like to be a stranger, not knowing how to get engaged,” said Ehara, who worked as an English language assistant in Hong Kong for five years.
Now, working with her husband at Sakana Media, Ehara captures stills and video to help a company convey its values and story.A graduate of the East Asian Studies program at the University of Toronto, Ehara once dreamed of working as a diplomat for the Canadian Foreign Affairs. After realizing that they hadn’t hired in four years, she abandoned the dream.
The community-focused workshop was an extension of the afternoon business builder session, connecting participants with members of the start-up and entrepreneur communities.