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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why We Relaunched Gallup.com

The world’s 7 billion citizens get most of their news from reporters and experts -- it’s edited and filtered by how these professionals see events. Gallup applauds the work they do. But the one missing element from most reporting and analyses are the opinions, thoughts and feelings of those 7 billion citizens themselves -- how they see events.

This week we are relaunching our e-newspaper, Gallup.com, to broaden and deepen our coverage of the opinions, thoughts and well-being of citizens around the world -- the will of the people. So while the news media continues to cover events from the view of journalists and experts, our newspaper will be the only one in the world where citizens are the reporters and experts. 

We at Gallup feel a deep sense of stewardship for our founder's mission and purpose. Dr. George Gallup once said, "If democracy is supposed to be based on the will of the people, someone should find out what that will is." That is what this newspaper is about. Our founder often said (back when the global population was a bit smaller), “There are 5 billion ways to lead a life, and we should study them all.” That is what this newspaper is about.

Our relaunched Gallup.com not only features one-of-a-kind nightly tracking polls of U.S. citizens, but also our far-reaching World Poll -- tracking surveys across 160 countries on almost everything that matters, representing 98% of the world's population. So if you wake up some mornings asking yourself, "I wonder what the whole world is thinking today,” this newspaper is for you.

Gallup has invested $100 million in building the World Poll and U.S. nightly tracking methodology -- these are among the biggest surveys of public opinion ever conducted. They consist of matching questionnaires and consistent sampling frames across these 160 countries, so it is possible for the first time in the history of journalism to systematically report human development on a country-by-country basis around the world.

Simply put, this newspaper will feature news that has never been reported before. We hope that every news desk in the world will see Gallup.com as a resource to support and complement their stories.

Gallup.com will continue to cover all major topics in the world from war to unemployment. But we are also transforming this newspaper into one that presents a unique look at economics and business. Our popular Gallup Business Journal, which has amassed more than 1 million subscribers since its launch in 2001, is now integrated into this newspaper and those subscribers will see their content grow by multiples. Gallup.com will now be the best in the world at reporting insights into customers, employees, students and citizens. We will go deeper in our reporting on the opinions, thoughts and well-being of those four groups than any global analytics team in the world.

Gallup has discovered that what the whole world wants is a good job, and that organizations can’t create good jobs without highly engaged customers. Gallup.com will regularly report discoveries and breakthroughs in customer and employee engagement. This newspaper will also feature deep dives and breakthroughs from our famous Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, which has already helped more than 10 million people around the world develop their innate strengths, as well as our new Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder assessment, which identifies the world’s most talented business builders.

In short, we will report on everything we believe is critical to increasing global economic energy, especially from a behavioral economics perspective.

This relaunched e-newspaper has been created by a broad mix of Gallup experts, some of the world’s most esteemed academics, and especially by business clients and partners of Gallup. The very smartest, most creative teams in the world joined together to build a global reporting system with just the right questions, methodologies and writing. This site is one that will help all of our clients lead their businesses, governments and institutions better -- and, subsequently, lead the world better.

We need to address the will of the world’s 7 billion citizens now more than ever. If you and I don’t put the world back on track, no one else will.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The One Thing I’d Fix: America’s Decline in Entrepreneurship

America’s biggest problem is that we don’t have enough good jobs. Yes, unemployment has gone “down” to 5.9%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But that percentage is almost meaningless, as it doesn’t count people who’ve quit looking for work. A staggering 20 million people or more are still jobless or grossly underemployed, and many are deeply frustrated or depressed -- they’re not celebrating “declining” unemployment.

More troubling, Gallup Analytics finds U.S. underemployment above 15% and only about 45% of adults employed in full-time jobs with at least 30 hours per week of work and a paycheck from a real organization. According to the Labor Department, the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population remains at one of the lowest levels since they began measuring this.

The one thing I’d fix right away is this super serious jobs problem, because if we don’t, we might lose our republic and our way of life. And I wouldn’t fix it with more government “shovel-ready” jobs or free money from the Federal Reserve. I’d fix it with millions of new startup companies and by reviving the spirit of entrepreneurship.

We’ve got our work cut out for us. In 2008, the total number of new business startups and business closures per year -- the birth and death rates of American companies -- crossed for the first time since the measurement began, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Here, I am referring to employer businesses, those with one or more employees.) Four hundred thousand new businesses are now being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 are dying annually -- we are at minus 70,000 business survival per year. This is hugely significant, because small businesses are the main source of new good jobs and new economic energy. Up to 50% of all jobs are in small businesses and approximately 65% of all new good jobs are created by them, according to the Small Business Administration.

Also significant: A shortage of good jobs leads to social unrest. This is true especially when young males are affected, because joblessness destroys their self-concept, makes them feel depressed, humiliated, and hopeless. 

Why was there such unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer? You could say it was a problem between cops and minorities, but I’d argue this was a jobs problem. As The Washington Post reported, “The unemployment and poverty rates for blacks in St. Louis County are consistently higher than those rates for white residents.”

If all those young men in Ferguson had a good job to go to each morning -- one where they could feel pride in themselves, feel productive, and be doing something that matters -- do you think they would be in the streets, protesting, rioting, and looting? Probably not.

The fix: American business leaders in cities across the country, as well as local elected officials, must begin right away to find and nurture tomorrow’s most successful entrepreneurs in their communities. America needs at least a million more startups fast. This means being as serious and intentional about the early identification and development of entrepreneurs as you are about finding star athletes and kids with high IQs.

And the talent is out there, waiting to be found. There are nearly 30 million students in U.S. middle and high schools right now. Early Gallup research reports that about five in 1,000 working-age adults in the U.S. possess the rare talents of entrepreneurship, so that means there are about 150,000 future blue-chip entrepreneurs in fifth through 12th grade now, more in college, and tens of thousands more high- potential adult business builders out there. City leaders should find them all and make their entrepreneurial growth as systematic and intentional as intellectual and athletic growth are. Great business builders are like great scientists or great quarterbacks -- they will respond and accelerate with special attention. Furthermore, without it, their potential is at risk of being underdeveloped, or worse, never developed at all.

Americans have accomplished much harder tasks. We mobilized the whole country to win World War II. We put a man on the moon. Good Lord, we ignited the dot-com boom that revolutionized business and led to one of the greatest bull markets in history. We can turn the American economy around. But we had better get on this one fast, because we need millions of good jobs right now.

Jim Clifton coauthored Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, which was released last month by Gallup Press.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why Being Engaged at Work Isn't as Simple as "Being Happy"

I was recently interviewed by Fast Company magazine about the difference between being happy at work and being engaged -- and there’s a huge difference. Here’s the article Mark C. Crowley wrote for the publication from our discussion:

Last December, Gallup researchers stunned the business world with the revelation that just three in 10 American workers are engaged in their jobs and willing to do all they can to help their bosses and organizations succeed.

In the nine months since, a hyper-focus on restoring engagement has become a fully fledged movement in the U.S., with many companies committing themselves to boosting employee happiness as their chosen remedy.

But like a doctor who’s made a dire diagnosis and then isn’t consulted for proper treatment, Gallup has grown alarmed that the pursuit of happiness so many leaders have embraced is a tonic that will not help businesses get better.

I recently sat down with Jim Clifton, Gallup’s CEO for the past 26 years, and asked him to provide his prescription for bringing American workplaces back to full health. Leveraging insight gained from Gallup’s decades-long global engagement and well-being studies, not to mention his own work with hundreds of companies across the world, he offered this often contrarian advice:

We Shouldn’t Be Trying to Make Workers Happy

“The idea of trying to make people happy at work is terrible,” Clifton told me emphatically.

While admiring companies like Zappos, which intentionally fosters positive workplaces, he nevertheless believes a day-to-day focus on the fun aspects of happiness greatly miss the mark. This is because Gallup’s research shows that how a person feels about the work they do every day has the greatest impact on engagement by far.

“What companies will inevitably find is that the only way to make a person happy is to give them a job that matches well to their strengths, a boss who cares about their development, and a mission that gives them feelings of purpose,” Clifton said. “The belief that something gets better when you come and do your job, that’s as happy as you can be.”

Recent studies in positive psychology help to validate this and show that true contentment is tied to human flourishing. According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, “happiness is the experience of positive feelings of pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose.” Happiness is the joy we feel when we’re striving to fulfill our potential and accomplishing something significant.

Free Lunches Don’t Drive Achievement

“Free lunches and snacks have little direct impact on human performance,” Clifton insists, “and have the real potential of being destructive to achievement.”

On a vacation to Yellowstone National Park, Clifton noticed signs saying, “Do Not Feed The Bears,” almost everywhere he went. Concerned that all these postings were an indication that bears were mauling campers in unusual numbers, he sought out a park ranger for explanation.

“Those signs aren’t for your protection,” the ranger told him, “they’re here to protect the bears. What most people don’t understand is that when you feed a bear a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they’ll never dig for roots again. Park visitors think all they’re doing is giving the bear a treat, but they end up ruining all those great animals’ lives.”

Clifton believes we need similar signs in a lot of American companies. “Rather than looking for all the ways that actualize people, they’re focused on free food. And that’s not only what people don’t want -- it’s what’s going to spoil them. The ultimate act in workplace leadership is human development, not a focus on happiness or entertainment.”

Perks Aren’t Much Better at Driving Engagement

It’s perhaps a surprise that Clifton is not a fan of the “Best Places to Work” rankings annually published in Fortune magazine. But it’s because he believes we too often herald organizations for being generous with perks when the spotlight should be placed on the companies who make more meaningful investments in growing their people.

“Many companies, like Google, offer perks because they create conveniences for employees,” says Clifton, “but there’s no cause and effect in terms of engagement and high performance. I think perks make a little bit of difference to people, but the benefit is granular compared to a focus on individual expansion.”

Clifton, nevertheless, strongly advocates that organizations provide employees with healthcare and on-site day care. “Offering these is not only the right thing to do; both greatly enhance well-being, which is known to have a direct and positive impact on the bottom line.”

Engagement Is Driven by What Many CEOs Still Believe Are Soft Practices

“What businesses really want,” says Clifton, “is for employees to bring their initiative, commitment, and productivity to their jobs; but we can’t find any evidence that pay plays much if any role in driving this. The true connections are what many business leaders instinctively consider soft practices. But it’s almost as if the softer you go, the stronger the signal,” he insisted. “The softer you go, the stronger the correlation.”

All of the questions that Gallup asks workers about their engagement, Clifton told me, “are really about a human wanting to develop, maximize their strengths, make a meaningful contribution, and feel valued. And we know that engagement happens automatically when these deeper needs get met.” But traditional beliefs about how best to motivate human beings continue to be the key reason why 70% of the working population is disengaged.

“The truth is many CEOs have been repelled by this idea that management must incorporate more heart to be successful,” Clifton says. “But now many are saying, ‘come a little bit closer, my dear.’ And this is because CEOs are desperate to win. They’re beginning to recognize that an authentically caring culture provides a clear and sustainable competitive advantage.”

So Goes the Manager, So Goes Engagement

When I asked Clifton where organizations should start if their objective is to build deep and lasting engagement across their enterprises, he was direct and unambiguous.

“Going forward, we must insist on hiring caring managers. Managers must be driven, love productivity, profitability, and competing,” he added, “but they must also have an inclination to maximize the potential of every person on their team.”

Gallup has discovered that organizations too often make the mistake of promoting people into managerial positions simply because they were most senior, or they’d previously been star individual performers.

But their research shows that unimaginable success results when companies demonstrate greater discipline -- and courage -- by selecting people who have the proven motivation of making a difference in the lives of others, not just their own.

“The final question companies should ask each time they’re considering a managerial candidate is this: Do they offer leadership or do they need leadership? It’s a big difference,” Clifton says.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Unaffordable Cost of Being the Fattest Country on Earth

A recent report cited that the single biggest reason families go bankrupt in the United States is because they get wiped out by medical bills. What a nightmare. God bless those families that have to spend all of their household savings, and more, to help a loved one.

But here’s something that few American citizens know: Just like those families, the U.S. could also go broke, because the country is being wiped out by medical costs. The nation’s healthcare costs have grown to $2.8 trillion, or nearly $9,000 per person, which is more than double what comparable countries pay per person. And health spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 6% through 2022 – much faster than the expected average annual GDP growth. With these staggeringly high, growing costs that are increasing faster than our economy will grow, we’re on an unsustainable path to national bankruptcy. Sure, a country can’t get foreclosed on or have its car taken away, like what can happen to a family. But a country can lose its economy, its growth, its jobs, its security -- its very way of life.

Gallup and Healthways just released our State of Global Well-Being report. I wish I could say the findings are encouraging on the healthcare front, but they’re not. The U.S. ranks 25th globally in physical well-being, with 57% of our citizens struggling, 11% suffering, and only 32% thriving in this element. But here’s a truly alarming -- and revealing -- fact: The U.S. is the most obese country in the world.

The Centers for Disease Control concluded a few years ago that of all of America’s chronic health problems, a whopping 70% are preventable. And what is the common thread among these chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease? Being obese puts people at higher risk for developing all of them. Bluntly, our citizens are too fat, and the country’s economy and future are being smothered by our obesity.

Look, we can debate political solutions till the cows come home: the Affordable Care Act, state exchanges, expansion or contraction of Medicaid, “Grand Bargains” on Medicare, and so forth. In my opinion, that debate is just about how you move $2.8 trillion around.

I’ve got a “miracle cure,” and honest to God, it won’t cost the country a penny, yet may cut our health costs in half. If Americans want to live longer, have their children live as long or longer than they themselves will, and not go bankrupt because of crushing medical bills -- and if they would like to live in a country that isn’t buried in debt and borrowing trillions of dollars -- a well-being miracle lies in one simple solution: We have to change what and how much we put in our mouths. We have to commit our entire country -- government, businesses, nonprofits, media, families, everyone -- to getting each and every one of our citizens to eat better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Left to Chance: Early Identification and Development of Gifted Entrepreneurs

This post is adapted from the upcoming book Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder (Gallup Press, Sept. 30).

If you have a high IQ, America’s massive testing systems will find you. We’re probably the best in the world at high-level intellectual development. There is no chance a really smart student will be overlooked in America.

If you have the rare, innate talent to play basketball or football, our massive youth-to-college-to-pro sports systems will find you. We’re probably the best in the world at early identification and development of star athletes. There is no chance a sports star will be missed in America.

However, if you have the rare, innate ability to create a customer, to build a company -- if you have the talent for entrepreneurship -- your early identification and subsequent development is left to chance. If you possess star “business builder” brilliance, you will likely be overlooked in America.

The U.S. has no peer at developing students with high IQs. Our country is home to most of the best universities in the world. And the best of America’s top private and public K-12 schools do a world-class job at accelerating smart kids.

Right now, a student in fifth through 12th grade who is blessed with an unusually high IQ will be spotted. Whether you live in Philadelphia or Tacoma, on a poor farm in a desolate area of Texas or in Nebraska, if you have a genius-level aptitude for learning, our testing system will sort you out, and your life will start changing and developing quickly.

My dad, Don Clifton, was born on a sheep ranch in northern Nebraska. It was there that county-level tests discovered that he was an unusual learner and thinker. He was offered a scholarship to the University of Nebraska, and he stayed there, teaching educational psychology and researching what he called “strengths theory.” That theory became the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, and it changed the world.

So the system worked for Dad. It found him in the middle of nowhere raising sheep and reading and learning like crazy, and that was 75 years ago. The system still works. If you were blessed with an unusual gift to learn, we will find you. And we will teach you and support you and wait anxiously for your book smarts to grow and develop.

But if you were born with the very rare talent, born with a unique neuron configuration for entrepreneurship, born with the genius to create customers, you’re pretty much on your own.

We certainly won’t find you in Compton or Queens or Amarillo. You might have access to a random special class for entrepreneurs, but there is no formal early identification system, no colleges bidding for you, no national benchmarks for ranking rare individuals like you. Colleges and universities place tremendous weight on SAT or ACT scores, but nobody asks about the applicant’s entrepreneurial aptitude to start a company, build an organization, or create millions of customers. We don’t know how someone like that works at all.

However, Gallup research strongly suggests that entrepreneurs have innate traits that make them successful. Let me make this really clear: Nature trumps nurture as far as entrepreneurship goes. Entrepreneurs are born, they learn to use their innate talents, and then they succeed. The ones who become superstars -- Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sara Blakely, to name a few -- are the ones who had innate talent and were able to make the most of that talent.

But millions more entrepreneurs don’t know what to do with the talent God gave them. They may not even know they have entrepreneurial talent at all, because there is no formal system for identifying them.

All talents, of any kind, explode with early identification and intentional development. But the talent for entrepreneurship doesn’t receive the close attention that we routinely offer, even to middle school cheerleaders.

Imagine how the world would change if we recorded and reported aptitude scores for entrepreneurial talent -- if the U.S. could identify those with the right talent and get them into accelerated development programs in the best schools.

The day when there is a list of “blue-chip” potential entrepreneurs coming out of your local high schools and colleges is the day when America, and subsequently the world, will change forever. Conversations will change. Leadership will change. City and national strategies will change. Billions of dollars’ worth of investments will change. A very specific human talent will have new value and respect, because we can intentionally direct and control economic energy and subsequently the future of cities and nations.

Pre-order Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder from Amazon.com.

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