What the Historic Peaks of Absenteeism and Disengagement in France Reveals

Watermelon Indicators

You know the watermelon indicators, green on the outside and red on the inside? I feel like I come across them every day in some companies. Like global warming, absenteeism measured by the Malakoff Humanis barometer is at a historic high since it has been measured: 50% of employees were prescribed sick leave within the year!

There’s also an overheating in the sum of the non-engaged and actively disengaged, measured in our country and in Europe by Gallup, at a record high of 87%!

“But you know, Luc, it’s a whole different story with us, we measure 80% and more engagement!” 

A Granite Reality

How to say, there seems to be a problem of perspective… First, sick leaves are recorded because they are prescribed and therefore not debatable. Secondly, engagement surveys, which impact your collective variable share, have by design.. interest in being at the top..

Unfortunately, the reality matches well with the measures of Malakoff Humanis and Gallup. I confirm them every day through the scientific measurements of the team audit tool OpenDecide. Young people, women, and managers are the most critical populations. While it’s true that managers are resigning en masse, one can easily imagine the mood within the teams. And most of the time, managers are not to blame. A recent article that peremptorily stated that more than 70% of managers were incompetent made me jump.

My field observations (NextGen supports more than 200 teams per year) indicate exactly the opposite, at least for operational, front-line managers.

The higher you go, the more the signals of dysfunction send the meters spinning, under the effect of the famous paradoxical injunctions.

Public Testimonies Still Shocking in 2023

A few weeks ago, during a day dedicated to managerial innovation, a CEO of a large company in a commodity market offered an “expert” testimony and noted in the same motion the difficulty of her company in retaining and attracting talent and the importance of strengthening the “chain of command.” Confident in her facts, the leader would hammer the expression “chain of command” like a mantra more than ten times in her speech, spicing it up with “controls” here and there, in front of a partly stunned audience. And then to continue on the observation that they only recruited engineers for higher education profiles and that most of their managers were super experts who wanted to “evolve.”

A great ability to self-diagnose by identifying the very roots of the problem, but without addressing them..

The Team, the Key Cell of the Organization

In such a context, the teachings of research as well as my modest experience indicate that the right level of action and transformation is that of the teams. Whatever the management style in the infinity of nuances between directive, participative, and collaborative modes, the team constitutes the temporal invariant, the cell in permanent recomposition, the figure of the “organic” adaptability of a company.

Who knows what teams we will need tomorrow, and to take charge of which value chain of processes? No one. But one thing is certain, the relevant talents will be mobilized in the right team, potentially hybrid in terms of contracts and time spent. This team, managed hierarchically or transversely, will need to optimize its functioning for maximum efficiency and engagement level.

Thus, the challenge of this “relevant mesh” that is the team and its leader, whether a supervisory manager or a supporting servant leader, is clearly perceived.

Manager, Mission Impossible!

But how to be a manager in 2023? This unrecognized hero must solve daily the insoluble equation of the particular demands of his co-workers, markers of the ongoing hyper-personalization: 4-day week for some, telework for others, staggered hours for some, etc. As if that wasn’t enough, his hierarchy relies on him to deploy the strategy, priorities, new priorities, rituals, and all HR, CSR, Quality, safety, IT policies, etc.

Not to mention that everyone has come to understand that bad cholesterol in growing organizations ends up translating into layers of lost middle management like Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation.” But then, is it urgent to eliminate managers? The headless duck speeds up!

How to Get Back on Track in Seven Points?

It becomes especially urgent to lay down the fundamentals of the company; a kind of zero-base reconstruction. How would we proceed if we could or had to redesign the company from a blank page?

  1. What is its purpose and what do we serve by doing business?
  2. What strategy do we deduce from this and what are our value creation processes?
  3. What is the financial, social, and environmental impact of this “doing business” and of this value creation?
  4. What culture characterizes us?
  5. What are our values, beliefs, and explicit behaviors?
  6. What organization do we need to optimize our processes and the realization of our strategy?
  7. What are the aspirations of each team and what do they need?

The Imperative Need to Look Beyond the Short Term

We have other priorities, budgets, the sales period, an IT project, who knows.. This harmful refrain signals sometimes cowardice in the short term, sometimes resignation. The “good news” for employees is called full employment beyond bachelor’s degree in Europe! The discontented vote with their feet and leave environments that do not suit them. I’m not saying that the chain of command and controls suit no one or are systematically ineffective. I’m simply suggesting a link between absenteeism and lack of engagement on one hand, and management style and alignment with team aspirations on the other.

Author: Luc bretones, Founder of NextGen