On Friday a delegation of American executives, led by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, traveled to Tunisia to explore investment opportunities. What’s driving this high profile interest in Tunisia by powerful American executives? I attended the delegation’s press conference at the US Embassy in Tunis to find out, and created the following podcast for TunisiaLive. To listen, click the icon below:
On Monday I joined the TunisiaLive team for an inside look at the trial of deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali, whose 23-year authoritarian rule came to an end on January 14. As both a correspondent and as a Tunisian citizen I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to tell a story about this remarkable day.
Earlier this year the Tunisian people overthrew their dictator of 23 years and, in doing so, inspired similar protests for democracy across the Middle East and North Africa. These movements are often collectively referred to as “The Arab Spring.” Each country in the region is currently at a different stage in their revolution, and no country has yet succeeded in transforming their revolution into a stable form of government. A few weeks ago I arrived in Tunis to interview those who live in the region and, through their stories, explore that murky period of time between revolutions and institutions.
The story I am sharing today concerns Libya, a nation whose revolution began four months ago and has resulted in some more stable institutions (such as the National Transitional Council in the country’s east), but which by and large has left its community in the throes of a power struggle. This power struggle has spilled into neighboring Tunisia, where rebel forces and those loyal to Muammar Gaddafi battle for control of world opinion. Every day throughout Tunisia, defecting Libyan diplomats denounce the regime, loyal diplomats praise it, and some of Libya’s 40,000 refugees plug in to the Internet to tell their side of the story.
Among these refugees is Kais (whose name he asked me to change for his safety) who has spent the last two months uploading to the Internet videos taken in Libya. Kais is especially interested in highlighting the conflict in his hometown of Tripoli where he claims a silent — and brutal — crackdown on protestors is taking place. I met Kais in a tailor’s shop in downtown Tunis where he was picking up a Libyan rebel flag. He sat down with me for a couple of hours to walk me through the videos he had uploaded to YouTube, and to share his story:
// As published on MIT CoLab Radio.
How does an unemployed youth — disenfranchised under a corrupt dictatorship — find voice and purpose in the months after a popular revolt? What does a community learn about itself – and those around it – as it engages in direct and honest conversation for the first time? How does a government negotiate letting its citizens speak their mind, and create a stable and functioning society?
In the wake of the Arab world’s first successful overthrow of a dictator, and through the personal narratives of strangers I have yet to meet, I’ve arrived in Tunisia to find out. Over the next three months I hope to share a few stories from the wake of the Arab Spring — that hot, foggy space between revolutions and institutions.
Also filed on Twitter under #arabsummer.
Finding a strong correlation between “job satisfaction” and “employee performance” has been called the Holy Grail of managerial psychology. While correlation does not necessarily establish causation, it’s a strong hint thereof and would help give credence to a mantra echoed by an industry of consultancies, authors, and career coaches, namely that the more you enjoy your work, the better you’ll do for yourself and for your employer. The road to proving this phenomenon, however, has been long and trying.
In his book The Social Psychology of Everyday Life, English researcher Michael Argyle offers a historical overview of efforts to find a strong correlation between job satisfaction and various aspects of employee performance. In the first major study – an analysis of the link between job satisfaction and employee productivity – researchers Brayfield and Crockett analyzed 26 experiments only to find a weak correlation of +0.15 (1955). A later meta-analysis of 74 studies found a similar correlation of +0.15 (Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985). What about other metrics of employee performance such as absenteeism? A low -0.09 in one meta-analysis (Hackett & Guion, 1985) and -0.22 in another (McShane, 1983). Turnover? -0.23 according to Carsten & Spector (1987). So where does that leave us? Do these studies undermine the notion that if you like your job, success will follow?
Historical research has relied on a flawed measure, argues Marcus Buckingham, former Senior Researcher at Gallup and best-selling author of First, Break All the Rules. Not only is “job satisfaction” too high level a measure to be useful, but to observe a strong correlation with employee performance what’s far more important is to study an employee’s level of “engagement.” To measure employee engagement Marcus created Q12, a survey of twelve questions that he believes get to the root of this phenomenon. Within the Q12, three questions have been shown to have the strongest statistical significance: 1: Do I know what’s expected of me at work?; 2: At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?; 3: Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
Marcus’ “employee engagement” measure has shown promising results. In a recent Gallup Study of 955,905 people working in 152 organizations across 44 industries, correlation between employee engagement and quality of work was found to be 0.6; safety on the job (say in a manufacturing environment) 0.49; and absenteeism -0.37. In short a more engaged employee produces higher quality work, is safer, and misses work less often. A smaller although statistically significant correlation is also seen with metrics such as productivity, the organization’s profitability, and employee turnover.
With Marcus’s new metric, perhaps the workplace consulting industry gains increased legitimacy or, more accurately, is refocused on the discrete and powerful levers that create better outcomes for employees and the organizations for which they work. And what does this all mean for people who are trying to find the perfect job or entrepreneurs who wish to create the optimal work environment? According to Marcus’ research, create an environment where you know what’s expected of you, do work that taps into your strengths, and surround yourself with people who are committed to the quality of their output. If you can put those in place for yourself or your employees, performance will follow. Here’s to more engaging – and inspired – careers.
// As published in the MIT Entrepreneurship Review.
For fellow ethnographers (and design enthusiasts in general), one of the best design references I’ve seen. A bootleg of Stanford d.school‘s “Design Bootcamp,” a course which serves as the foundation of their curriculum. A great overview of design thinking and related exercises, as published (click here) by the d.school itself under the Creative Commons license.
This summer, while driving from Pennsylvania to California, I spent some time searching for people who have taken a risk to turn a passion into a career. From an export merchant turned baker in Chicago, to an electrical engineer turned pastor in Tulsa, I found stories that changed my perspective on both the benefits – and challenges – of entrusting in a motto I’ve long held dear, “behind every passion lies a business model.”
In a recent survey conducted by Manpower International, five out of six Americans intend to seek a new job in the coming year. If you are among those who’d like your new job to be rooted in a deep passion of yours, I hope the candid perspectives captured in this mini documentary may help you to make a more informed – and inspired – choice.
For more info on my work around passion, I invite you to visit www.passioneconomy.net.