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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Where do you stand on the ladder? A short exercise

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies

Our organisations are broken – and it's breaking our people (1)

‘Sometimes a job that was fulfilling gradually becomes less meaningful, slowly eroding your enthusiasm and spirit, until you no longer have much purpose in your work. People often describe this as ‘feeling trapped.’ They’re restless, yet they can’t seem to change – or even articulate what’s wrong.’ (2)

Work is hard.

Every day you feel the stress of performing, of delivering against your targets, of earning enough to support your family, of learning to act in just the right way to advance your career. And always, hanging over your head, is the threat of change - as your company shifts its focus or finds a smart machine that can do your job better.

And then there’s the other people you have to work with – an ever changing cast of characters.

The commute doesn’t help – as people return to the office.

The daily battle with your fellow workers. Everyone rushing in, rushing out. Raising your stress levels. On the way home you find a brief moment to gather your thoughts. Once home, you have a quick dinner and see the kids - before dragging out the phone again for the evening volley of emails and texts hoping to catch up on one last request.

Work is hard.

It has to change.’ (3)

Some people have great satisfaction in their work.

Others have hugely stressful experiences.

One thing’s for sure – people won’t give their best at work if they’re drowning in stress and worry – either at home, work or both.

Lockdowns, closed schools, kids at home, burnout, poor leadership, heavy workloads – don’t help.

So, where do you stand on the ladder?

Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.

Thinking about how things are going at the moment. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life experience and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst.

On which step of the ladder would you say you are at now? (0-10)

Your best guess will do.

Which step of the ladder do you see yourself in five years?


Individuals with high life evaluations are considered to be ‘thriving:’

You have positive views of their present situation – (7 or higher for the present) - and positive views of the next five years (8 or higher for the future).

Thriving employees report significantly fewer health problems, less negative emotions - more trust, happiness, enthusiasm and commitment.

Gallup research finds that, in Australia, 57% of workers are thriving.

This is high – compared to 32% globally. (4)

Are you stressed and feeling negative?

How many of the following negative emotions did you experience a lot of the time yesterday?


(43% Australian employees say they experienced stress a lot of the time yesterday – compared to 43% globally).

How about worry?

(Australia:32% - Globally:41%)


Australia:(12% - Globally: 24%)

Do you agree

– ‘I was treated with respect for most of the previous day?’

(Australia: 8% - Globally: 14%).


Negative emotions — stress, worry, anger, lack of respect — reached record levels in 2020. They have a significant bearing on where a person rates themselves on where they stand on the ladder. (5)

Are you engaged at work?

Engagement reflects your enthusiasm for your work and workplace:

  • Your work has a purpose

  • You have high involvement and energy

  • You trust your leaders and colleagues

  • You have confidence in your company and the future

  • You bring your ‘whole self’ to work.

On a score of 0 (low) and 10 (high), how engaged are you at work?


Scores of 9-10 indicate you’re highly engaged at work.

(19% are highly engaged in Australia - 20% globally). (6)

Notes for company leaders

The EGM measure for a successful people strategy 2021:

People Success = thriving + engaged employees

Take note:

  1. Talent is hard to find and retain - a ‘one-size’ fits all HR approach (to flexible working, remote working, parental leave) won’t work – follow a ‘one size fits one’ approach

  2. Surveys show that, post pandemic, anywhere from a quarter to over a half of professionals are looking to change jobs. This is partly due to changes in attitude on how work is done and dissatisfaction with the approach being taken. Company leaders need to think carefully about the ‘new normal’ and what it means for how their people work (7)

  3. McKinsey research finds that over 80% of employees say their daily lives have changed over the last 15 months – people have widely varied experiences, perspectives and outcomes (8)

  4. Employee well-being is crucial to thriving workers. Physical and mental health, financial concerns, loneliness when working remotely, burnout – all affect involvement, enthusiasm and productivity

  5. Have robust well-being policies and support – have escalation routes, provide financial education, hold regular check-ins: covering work and well-being issues

  6. Work life and home life are intertwined – create ‘family friendly’ policies that support the well-being of employees - both inside and outside of work

  7. Encourage and promote activities that lead to a healthy lifestyle

  8. Upgrade the quality of your leaders - emotionally intelligent leadership – awareness, making a positive impact on people’s lives - coach or remove leaders who practice toxic behaviours

  9. Take small steps to improve your ‘thriving + engagement’ scores – constant small steps are better than going for breakthrough initiatives

  10. Start now. Tomorrow will be too late.

We have an opportunity to re-imagine the employee experience - respect individual differences – home lives, skills, capabilities and mindsets, personal characteristics.

We challenge you to totally rethink how you treat, train, coach and develop your employees.

‘Leaders - put creating and maintaining a caring culture, first. Now.

People, people, people – what else is there? Take care of your people. The bottom line is to make excellence the norm in all people matters. ‘The bottom line’ – this is also the best way to spur and grow profitability.

Train them and treat them with respect and help them prepare for tomorrow.’(9)

  1. Get out of your own way: let’s build better companies, EGM blog

  2. Reawakening your passion for work, Richard Boyatzis, Annie Mckee, Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, Guide to beating burnout

  3. Nine lies about work, Marcus Buckingham

  4. State of the global workplace 2021, Gallup

  5. For more discussion of the concept of ‘the ladder’ see, the state of the global workplace 2021, Gallup

  6. For all figures in this section see, the state of the global workplace 2021, Gallup

  7. Harvard Business Review, June 2021

  8. Covid-10 and the employee experience. How leaders can seize the moment, McKinsey

  9. Excellence now, extreme humanism. Tom Peters

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