The economics of well-being: part 1. The value of Happiness

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For Chess iX, seeking for a high performance workforce is key, especially when the economy is not that well.
Research has shown that managers can take four measures to help employees thrive at work. All four are necessary to promote a culture of vitality and learning. It is good to see that we are well on our way to have these in place.
 
When the economy is in terrible shape , when any of us is lucky to have a job- let alone one that is financially and intellectually rewarding – worrying about wether or not employees/colleagues are happy or not seem a little over the top.
 
But in a research published by the Harvard Business Review what makes for a consistently high performance workforce, there is good reasons to care; Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones over the long term. They routinely show up at work , they’re less likely to quit, they go above and beyond their duties, an they attract people who are just as committed to the job. Moreover they are not sprinters; they’re more like marathon runners, in it for the long haul.
The performance connection : In a sweeping meta analyses of 225 academic studies it was found that happy employees have on average , 31% higher productivity; their sales are 37% higher and their creativity is three times higher.
 
So what does it mean to be happy in your job. The publishers found a better word : thriving.
A thriving workforce as one in which employees are not just satisfied and productive but also engaged in creating future for the their own and the company. Thriving employees are highly energized but they know how to avoid burn-out.
 
They identified two components of thriving. The first is vitality : the sense of being alive , passionate, excited. Companies generate vitality by giving people the sense that what they do on a daily basis makes a difference.
The second component is learning: the growth that comes from gaining new knowledge and skills. Learning can set in motion a virtuous cycle: People who are developing their abilities are likely to believe in their potential, technical advantage, status as expert and growth.
The two qualities works in concert: one without the other is unlikely to be sustainable and may even damage performance.
 
Across industries an job types they also found that thriving employees demonstrated 16% better overall performance, 125% less illness , 32% more committed to the organization and 46% more sattisfied with their jobs
 
How can organizations support their employees to Thrive
Some employees thrive no matter the context, they naturally build vitality and learning into their job and they inspire people around them. A smart hiring manager will look for those people. But most people are influenced by their environment and the pressure.
The good news is that – without heroic measures or major financial investments – we can jump start a culture that encourage employees to thrive.
 
The research uncovered four mechanisms that create the conditions for this:
1. Providing decision -making discretion
2. Sharing information
3. Minimizing incivility
4. Offering performance feedback
They overlap somewhat and are in combination necessary to create the desired culture
 
 
1. Providing decision making discretion
Everybody -at every level -are energized by the ability to make decisions that affect their work. Empowering gives a greater sense of control, more say in how things get done, and more opportunities for learning. The challenge for managers is to avoid cutting back on empowerment when people makes mistakes, tho situations create the best conditions for learning.
 
At Facebook, decision-making discretion is fundamental to the culture. One employee posted a note on the site expressing his surprise, and pleasure, at the company’s motto, “Move fast and break things,” which encourages employees to make decisions and act. On just his second day of work, he found a fix to a complicated bug. He expected some sort of hierarchical review, but his boss, the vice president of product, just smiled and said, “Ship it.” He marveled that so early on he had delivered a solution that would instantly reach millions of people.
 
2. Sharing information
Doing your job in an information vacuum is tedious and uninspiring ; there is no reason to look for innovative solutions if you can not see the larger impact. Everyone can contribute more effectively when understanding how their works fit with the organization mission and strategy.
Systems like open book management, that make information widely available build trust and give employees the knowledge they need to make good decisions and take initiative with confidence.
 
At Zingerman’s information is as transparent as possible. The organization had never consciously withheld its numbers—financial information was tacked up for employees to see—but when cofounders Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw studied open book management in the mid-1990s, they came to believe that employees would show more interest if they got involved in the “game.”

Implementation of a more formal and meaningful open book policy was not easy. People could look at the numbers, but they had little reason to pay attention and didn’t get much insight into how the data related to their daily work.  It wasn’t until senior leaders made huddling non-negotiable that employees grasped the true purpose of the whiteboards, which displayed not just financial figures but also service and food quality measures, check averages, internal satisfaction figures, and “fun,” which could mean anything from weekly contests to customer satisfaction ratings to employees’ ideas for innovation.

 

3. Minimizing Incivility

The costs of incivility are great. In the research with Christine Pearson, a professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management, it was discovered that half of employees who had experienced uncivil behavior at work intentionally decreased their efforts. More than a third deliberately decreased the quality of their work. Two-thirds spent a lot of time avoiding the offender, and about the same number said their performance had declined.
 
Incivility prevents people from thriving. Those who have been the targets of bad behavior are often, in turn, uncivil themselves: They sabotage their peers. They “forget” to copy colleagues on memos. They spread gossip to deflect attention. Faced with incivility, employees are likely to narrow their focus to avoid risks—and lose opportunities to learn in the process.
In the  research, the researchers were surprised by how few companies consider civility—or incivility—when evaluating candidates. Corporate culture is inherently contagious; employees assimilate to their environment. In other words, if you hire for civility, you’re more likely to breed it into your culture.
 

4. Offering Performance Feedback

Feedback creates opportunities for learning and the energy so critical for a culture of thriving. By resolving feelings of uncertainty, feedback keeps people’s work-related activities focused on personal and organizational goals. The quicker and more direct the feedback, the more useful it is.
Employees could feel overwhelmed or even oppressed by the constant nature of the feedback. Instead, the company’s strong norms for civility and respect and for giving employees a say in how they accomplish their work create a context in which the feedback is energizing and promotes growth.
 

Quicken Loans, a finance company that measures and rewards employee performance like no other organization, offers continually updated performance feedback using two types of dashboard—a ticker and kanban reports. 
The ticker has several panels displaying  metrics along with data feeds that show how likely it is to meet the periodic goals. People are hardwired to respond to scores and goals, so the metrics help keep them energized through the day; essentially, they’re competing against their own numbers.
The kanban dashboard ((Kanban, a Japanese word meaning “signal,” is used frequently in operations as stoplights.) allows managers to track people’s performance so that they know when an employee or a team needs some coaching or other type of assistance. A version of the kanban chart is also displayed on monitors, with a rotating list of the top 15 salespeople for each metric. Employees are constantly in competition to make the boards, which are almost like a video game’s ranking of high scorers.

 

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