"Once upon a time there lived a sea lion who had lost the sea. He lived in a country known as the barren lands. High on a plateau, far from any coast, it was a place so dry and dusty that it could only be called a desert. A kind of coarse grass grew in patches here and there, and a few trees were scattered across the horizon. But mostly, it was dust. And sometimes wind, which together make one very thirsty. Of course, it must seem strange to you that such a beautiful creature should wind up in the desert at all. He was, mind you, a sea lion. But things like this do happen.
How the sea lion came to the barren lands, no one could remember. It all seemed so very long ago. So long, in fact, it appeared as though he had always been there. Not that he belonged in such an arid place. How could that be? He was, after all, a sea lion. But as you know, once you have lived so long in a certain spot, no matter how odd, you come to think of it as home."
-Quote from the book "Desire" by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
Does this sound like anyone you know in the workplace? I am a big John Eldredge fan and actually received three of his books for Christmas. I came across this story in one of the books I was reading and thought, this really describes the trapped employee. These are employees who aren't excited about the company but do not plan to leave. Usually when I describe the trapped employee, most people can instantly picture a few of these people in their workplace.
I do not think a lot of employees today start off their career hoping to be trapped, hoping to be in a job that leads nowhere in a company they do not care about and does not seem to care about them. But, after time, many employees (20%-30% on average) fall into this category. They do not plan to leave but aren't excited about staying.
I think over the past couple of years, many companies have become that barren land. A mentality of "let's buckle down and get through this" has prevailed, an attitude of "this is just a job" has resulted. Now, I am not suggesting companies have keggers every Friday, although this would probably increase employee loyalty. However, it would probably severely impact productivity. What I am talking about is remember the employees, celebrate the success (even a flat year where the company made money is worthy of a celebration in today's economy), reward high performing employees, give access to training and development so employees feel you care about them. Remembering the employees will improve employee loyalty, which will have a positive impact on the overall success of the organization.
One other question I think companies seem to forget to ask themselves is, "Do we have the right people in the right job or do we have people in a job because we are too busy with other things?" Do we have sea lions in the desert and camels in the sea? Take time to review the personnel, their skills and abilities, and what jobs they are in.
Now I have some questions for the employee, "Are you just going through the motions? If so, why?" My blog last week spoke to this. There is no reason to look back on your career and see most of it was spent in the desert. Go find the sea. The road will be difficult and treacherous but rewarding once you find it.