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The Secret to Employee Engagement

The Secret to Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has become a topic which has gained much attention over the past few years, with a wave of different strategies, tips and hints on how to get your employees more engaged in the workplace. While most of this advice is helpful, and is calling the attention of executives to the value of engagement in reaching company outcomes, some do not always address the root cause of employee disengagement.

The aim of this article is to reveal the secret to employee engagement – it isn’t your employees! The true measure of increased employee engagement is the organisational climate and culture which permeates on every level. A high level of motivation, proactivity and high productivity cannot be met in the frontlines alone. While every employee has the right to experience personal satisfaction in their work, they also feed into a bigger system of strategy and objectives which allow the organisation to grow and succeed.

At 4Seeds we believe in the power of the individual to influence the success of the whole. Our knowledge and expertise in the field of Positive Psychology has shown us that Positive Organisations are not crafted through short-term quick fixes or one-day team building events.

It is through a carefully managed system of continuous intentional actions that realise the potential of the individual within the structure and framework of the organisation.

In order to achieve sustainable improvements in employee engagement, an organisation and its leaders need to commit to a long-term strategy which puts people first.

The Happiness at Work Model which was designed and developed by the iOpener Institute for People & Performance is a highly valuable and proven method to improve not only employee engagement, but increase the bottom line through improved customer satisfaction, better business practices, and an overarching trust and pride in the organisation.

The Happiness at Work Model lays out the fundamental pillars of a successful organisation, as well as the core drivers of individual and collective success. These pillars provide the structural guidance needed to improve employee engagement – for the long-term. These are illustrated in the image below (courtesy of the iOpener Institute for People & Performance, Oxford, United Kingdom).

 

 

Key Questions that Define Sustainable Employee Engagement

 

“Would you fully engage with someone you didn’t trust?”

This is a key question to ask yourself when deciding to engage in a sustainable employee engagement strategy. If an employee receives mixed messages from company communications, they are unlikely to put their best foot forward; guarding themselves against being damaged. Trust in an organisation comes from developing transparent, open and reliable communication channels on every level of the organisation. It is the responsibility of the culture in the organisation to support the development of psychological safety and mixed messages, and varied responses from management and a lack of transparency can severely affect the development of trust in the organisation’s goals, management and agenda.

“Why would an employee be committed to your organisation’s mission?”

A key overarching symbol of engagement is commitment to the mission and vision of the organisation. Without a sense of how they meaningfully contribute towards the objectives of the organisation, employees are unlikely to feel fully committed which will in turn affect their level of engagement in daily tasks. Leaders need to provide sounds reasons and regular reminders of how amazing the organisation is and the impact its work has on its stakeholders, consumers and society as a whole. These regular reminders of the value of each person’s work in making a positive impact will grow pride in the organisation and its mission.

“If you don’t know that you have done well, why would you keep trying?”

We have mentioned the value of recognition and feedback many times in the past for its profound effect on the self-confidence, motivation, and positive emotions employees experience at work. However, there remains an assumption in many organisations that feedback is a formal, regulated quarterly review process. This attitude towards recognition hinders the constant employee engagement which so many organisations desire. However, in answering the question, an informal, continuous culture of celebration is vital for sustainable engagement and is the responsibility of every manager and leader within the organisation.

 

In Conclusion

This article serves to highlight the necessity of organisations to take responsibility for the structures and systems which can lead to employee engagement. While each employee needs to be groomed and developed individually, the secret to sustainable employee engagement lies in the trust, pride and recognition that exists in the culture of the organisation. Alter these consciously and systemically, and employee engagement will be just one of the positive side effects.

4Seeds is the ONLY accredited provider of Happiness at Work in South Africa. Our Happiness at Work organisational change management intervention has shown proven effectiveness across the board.

For more information on this powerful investment and how it can help you boost customer service, reduce employee turnover, and provide tangible results for stakeholders, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za.

 

6 Facts About Employee Engagement Revisited

6 Facts About Employee Engagement Revisited

The other day I stumbled across an article that I wrote in September 2017. Reading through it, I realised that engagement is an even more pertinent topic than it was back then, and that I have deepened my knowledge on engagement since then and would like to share it with you.

Today, employee engagement is a necessity for organisations who want to remain commercially successful. In addition, employee engagement is essential for employees to be happy in their work, to find meaning in life, and to have an opportunity to be productive.

 

Defining Engagement

Let’s begin by defining engagement because there are many definitions of this term. Researchers classify employee engagement as a unique, persistent and pervasive psychological state that uses self-investment of personal resources and energy to express oneself in work tasks and connect with others.

What that means in layman’s terms is that engagement involves an emotional, physical and cognitive focus; so we commonly refer to it as combining the head-heart and hands into a work task. Engagement is often used interchangeably with job satisfaction, attitude, behaviour, involvement, and commitment. In as much as thinking isn’t incorrect, the key and critical component to engagement is the psychological state of the employee during their work experience.

Psychological Safety

You may be wondering why it’s challenging for people to be engaged at work, and the answer lies in the words: psychological safety.

When people engage they are attentive, connected and completely integrated with a task and/or person, and for that to happen people need to feel safe in their environment, safe to be themselves, safe to bring their authenticity to the work environment, safe with the people they work with, and safe with their leader; they need to feel that they can trust.

Safety is the second most important need that has to be fulfilled in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and if we don’t feel safe we aren’t able to deliver our best thinking, decision making, and tasks. So ask yourself how safe your employees feel in their work environment.

Here is the original article written in September 2017

The engagement concept has become a workplace buzzword over the past seven years. Every organisation wants the best part of their workforce to be fully or semi engaged, and less disengaged. However, many attempts have failed to create this shift, and our engagement levels remain at around 13 to 19 percent. This means that a lot of employees are disengaged at work. So, what are we missing?

We know a lot about engagement, and equally are left with many unanswered questions. There are so many definitions of the term “engagement”. There’s a very definite lack of consensus of what engagement is, what factors make it up, or how to practically measure it. Some people refer to engagement as employee engagement, while others as job or work engagement. There are several words all referring to the same thing, but it’s confusing when there isn’t an overarching consensus. This is a huge problem, but one that is often overlooked and brushed aside because that’s for the researchers to dwell on – as leaders we just want to have engaged employees.

Engagement is not an old concept. In 1990, Dr William A. Kahn, a professor of Organisational Behaviour at Boston University, was the first researcher who spoke about the word personal engagement when he contemplated how much a person brings of themselves to their work tasks and performance. He was way ahead of the curve and nobody was interested in the topic back then.

After that, no one spoke about engagement for 12 years, until 2002 when it reappeared as being the opposite to burnout. This development can be seen as reasonable, but it still didn’t explain the factors that make up engagement. And again, there was no traction on the topic until in 2010 when it started becoming a management and organisation buzzword.

Engagement is believed to have many benefits to both the individual and the organisation. Some of the benefits have been scientifically validated, and others widely speculated on. We would like to ask leaders and organisations to be cautious when rolling out an engagement strategy because it requires planning, thought and dedication. A hasty, unclear strategic plan can do more harm to employee happiness than is often anticipated.

Some facts to consider are:

  1. Engagement isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. You don’t DO engagement, you become actively engaged with your activities and tasks. Engagement is who you are and become as an organisation, similar to your culture.
  2. Define what engagement means in your organisation and perhaps write down some examples.
  3. Be specific about what the benefits, rewards and recognition for becoming more engaged are for employees. You are expecting more input from your workforce, which means that you have to be transparent and reciprocate fairly.
  4. We take the worldview that engagement is a positive construct from which the individual and the organisation will benefit. But, what if it doesn’t have such a tremendous benefit for the individual? What about when going the extra mile brings their work-life out of kilter and negatively affects their personal relationships?
  5. Let’s be considerate. Not every human being has the physical or psychological ability to operate at high levels of engagement. There could be limitations and illnesses to consider, and they are doing their best every day, albeit that the organisation doesn’t see it as good enough.
  6. Lastly, is engagement the utopia solution we are making it to be? Is it the be-all and end-all where the individual and organisation has a perfect win-win? Is this approach realistic?

Please don’t get me wrong! I am an avid supporter and lobbyist for employee engagement in the workplace. However, I want to challenge you to think about the engagement concept from a long-term moral and ethical angle before you go ahead and quickly roll out something that will make employees happy.

In summary

I hope that you have gained further insight on engagement and its importance in the workplace. It starts with the employee because they get to choose whether they want to engage or not. As an organisation you cannot force people to become engaged; however you can create possibilities that enable employees to engage.

Case Study: Managing Conflict and Building Effective Relationships in the Organisation

Case Study: Managing Conflict and Building Effective Relationships in the Organisation

Relationships: A Context

Building positive, trusting relationships is paramount in every organisation to ensure that communication is flowing, ideas are emerging, people are volunteering to assist and support one another, information is being shared, and collaboration occurs.

In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow reiterates that people need to feel loved and have a sense that they belong to a community. We all want to be liked, wanted, needed and loved, and this is no different to wanting to experience it in a work environment. Toxic working relationships cause distrust, miscommunication, frustration and loneliness. They drain us emotionally, physically and physiologically. They zap our energy, and influence our performance and productivity. They make us dread going to work, and we can even become physically ill from toxic relationships.

 

Background

We experienced a situation in an organisation a while back where the team was talking to one another but not truly communicating. They were polite, friendly and respectful, but they didn’t listen to each other. They didn’t air the conflict that was very noticeable in the room. Many difficult conversations were swept under the carpet which resulted in the team not being able to make decisions that mattered to the business. Each team leader was bickering about what wasn’t right, and whose fault it was. People were beating around the bush in conversations instead of saying what they truly felt and thought.

Throughout this process, people became cynical and expressed snide remarks that were hurtful. It didn’t take long for trust to break down and relationships to become superficial.

 

We were called in to help this team to build trusting, positive relationships.

 

Approach & Process

We engaged with the team over eight months and had to start gently before we were able to go a level deeper. The four key items we focused on were:

  1. Sharing what they appreciated and valued about one another. This was a new concept for the team as they were accustomed to talking about what was wrong and what someone didn’t do. They had to sit back and recognise the strength of a fellow team member and openly share it. To stretch them a little further, we asked them to articulate how a team member made their work easier.
  2. Learning to listen and not to interrupt was our next approach. To allow a team member to complete their sentence in full. To hold back on any knee-jerk reaction, and to hear what the person was saying. To make notes of thoughts and ideas that were coming up for the listener and to go back to them when it was their turn to speak.
  3. Engaging in open-ended questions that allow for clarification and expansion of viewpoints. Not to make any assumptions or judgement about what was being said, but rather to ask to ensure deep understanding. To summarise if needed based on what was heard.
  4. Express one’s feeling was the last aspect we brought in as this was going to force the team to show vulnerability and humility. Baring their heart on how they felt about a decision or situation. But having learned the previous tools, they were in a strong position to be heard and understood by their colleagues.

 

Outcomes

This four-step process rebuilt open, candid communication in the team which had a ripple effect on their trust and relationships. I still engage with them on odd occasions and can say that I’m delighted that they have upheld these strategies. Their relationships have remained positive and the once poor level of communication has completely turned around.

If your team is experiencing similar challenges and you would like our support contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a 30 minute free consultation with our expert team.

 

Return on Relationships

Return on Relationships

We’ve noticed that a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) has popped up in many Leaders’ Performance Assessments, namely the measurement of Return on Relationships. If it is not on yours yet, it will be coming soon!

In the 80s and 90s, we measured Return on Investment (ROI). In the early 2000s the entire IT platform dominated our world, and now the new buzzword is Return on Relationships (ROR).

What do we mean when we talk about Return on Relationships? Is it networking, socialising, or customer liaison? The answer is “all of the above” – but it is also much more, including building, nurturing, trusting and maintaining connections with our teams. A Meaningful Leader will know the value of positive relationships and will spend a fair amount of time nurturing good team relationships.

 

Meaningful Connections

 

Connecting with people mainly covers giving people our undivided attention and time; communicating through dialogue and listening deeply to each other’s needs. When we mindfully connect with others, we build rapport, trust and loyalty with each other. By doing these we remove judgement, bias and perceptions about one another, therefore allowing us to work together in an optimal team environment. We would be willing and open to provide feedback to each other, brainstorm new solutions to complex work situations, and challenge each other’s thinking. Connecting with people reduces conflict, misunderstandings and having arbitrary, meaningless conversations.

Humans are social beings, which means that we need social interactions and connections with other people. If someone has been deprived of social connectivity they withdraw and become unmotivated and unengaged with work and life. In an experiment conducted on baby monkeys, the babies were given the choice to either be deprived of motherly affection or food. It came as a surprise that the babies did not choose to fulfil their primary need for food, but rather chose motherly love. This indicates their instinct that connections matter more than actual food.

 

Improving Organisational Relationships

 

You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how can you improve or enhance connectivity with your team? How do you build relationships especially with team members that you don’t know or even particularly like? The answer is – and you might not like it – deep listening. Make a concerted effort to spark up a conversation with them and then listen beyond the noise. Listen with openness and curiosity. Listen to find meaning in what the person has to say. Ask questions to clarify and understand. Discard any perceptions and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. That may be a good starting point to build relationships.

After that, shift the dial on intensity and frequency until connecting with others becomes a way of working. The benefits, in the end, are far greater as people will support you on your own tasks and challenges through their insights and ideas, which will deepen the connection. Nevertheless, in the beginning, you have to invest conscious effort, practice and discipline. If, as a leader, you are sincere about people being the most valuable and valued asset, connecting is a brilliant starting point.

As February is the month of relationships, we encourage you to have belly-to-belly conversations with your teams. Let us know how it goes!

 

The Foundation and Benefits of Positive Psychology

The Foundation and Benefits of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is a word that is slowly filtering through into our work, social and personal lives. However, few people know what it is, where it originated, and why it has become such a much-talked-about concept. People often think that Positive Psychology is a new trend, industry or hype that has recently emerged. But if you trace its roots, you’ll find that it goes as far back as 400 BC to the ancient Greek times where Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics spoke about the importance of human happiness, virtues, fulfilling one’s potential, and living ethically. Since then, the idea of happiness has been a common thread through the eras of the Stoics, Christianity, Renaissance, Existentialist philosophers, right up to the beginning of the 21st century before WWI after which it lost its direction for a while.

Before the outbreak of WWI, the science of Positive Psychology had three distinct intentions:

  1. to cure mental illness.
  2. to make people happier.
  3. to study geniuses and highly talented people.

So, Positive Psychology already had an umbrella function back then, but with the outbreak of the war psychology got stuck on focusing on mental illness and spent little time on mental health. The reason for this was twofold: The war produced many war veterans and family members who needed to be treated and cured of the gruesome traumas, and institutions provided sponsorship funding for curing mental diseases. The result was that for 50 years psychology has honed in on curing mental illnesses, and this pathology has taken its toll on society and human science. This changed in 1998 when Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, who at the time was the President of the American Psychology Association, rebirthed the concept of balanced positive living, fulfilling one’s potential and having meaning and purpose in life. Seligman was purely bringing to light what past philosophers and scientists such as Freud, Jung, Skinner, Watson, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Maslow and Rodgers had been working on for decades. In a nutshell, one could say that Positive Psychology has a short history but a long past.

 

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It hones in on what is right about people by uncovering their strengths and promoting positive thriving. It focuses on factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive such as: building positive emotions, optimising character strengths, setting meaningful goals, being mindful and present in life activities, nurturing trusting and deep relationships, developing a growth learning mindset, and cultivating resilience strategies.

So, if Positive Psychology is “happiology” that only focuses on the optimistic side of life, especially with stats relating to the high levels of depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health challenges, is it a naïve unrealistic science? No, it’s not. Positive Psychology doesn’t deny or ignore the existence of negative emotions, feelings, situations or life events. It accepts and embraces them as being a normal part of life. However, what it does do is make individuals aware that they are not living from their optimal level, and then gives them practical tools and resources to pull them out of a downward slope quicker. Positive Psychology is an applied science that offers people balance to their previous skewed weakness or disease-orientated approach. It’s a holistic science that explores people’s strengths alongside their weaknesses. As it’s a science, the activities and exercises provided have undergone rigorous scientific testing and peer reviews. It isn’t self-help which is a critical distinguishing point; what is provided works. As much as Positive Psychology is about scientific theories, models and practical exercises, it is also about transformation and personal development. It has the ability to grow people to reach their level of optimal flourishing; a level very few people have experienced, but one each and every one can and has the right to.

 

Positive Psychology versus Traditional Psychology

Positive Psychology and traditional psychology complement each other and are not in competition with one another. They simply have two different focal points which are both extremely necessary and needed in the modern world. Traditional psychology focuses on mental illnesses, commonly referred to as the disease model of what is wrong with a person, and aims to remediate the situation. Positive Psychology tries to work from the approach and build on what is strong.

In the words of Abraham Maslow, “The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.”

Bringing the two psychologies together allows us to work with people in a complete and holistic manner. Another main distinguishing point is that traditional psychology is responsible for making a person function and Positive Psychology to make a person flourish – it’s like working with minus and plus signs. Both psychologies complement each other and a person can successfully engage with both modalities at the same time.

 

The Benefits of Positive Psychology

Now that you have some background on the roots and definition of Positive Psychology, let’s explore why this concept has become invaluable to our life. Positive Psychology, otherwise known as “happiness science”, has the following benefits:

  • It teaches us to shift our perspective from an overly negative bias to a balanced viewpoint.
  • It is present-orientated living in the here and now.
  • It instils an open-mindset of continuous learning and development.
  • It assists us to be more grateful and mindful of our surroundings and activities, thereby removing us from the debilitating autopilot mode.
  • It deepens our ability to savour positive life experiences.
  • It helps us to build trusting and meaningful relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
  • It teaches us to have more positive emotions and moods than negative ones.
  • It opens our hearts to volunteer work and acts of kindness.
  • It helps us to find meaning and purpose in tasks and activities.
  • It allows us to be engaged and fully participate in life.
  • It enhances our social and emotional intelligence.
  • It strengthens and develops neurons through the process of neuroplasticity.
  • It assists us to use our character strengths more often.

The end result is that we don’t overthink things, are able to bounce back from adverse daily situations, and it enhances our overall well-being. From a work perspective, we become more productive, find meaning in tasks through having flow moments, experience job satisfaction and cope better with stress, anxiety, feelings of overwhelm and frustration.

The best news is that happiness drives success and not the other way around. Becoming happier in life is a journey, not an outcome to ever accomplish, so it’s a path that can be learned and practised by everybody.

In our fast-moving world, Positive Psychology and happiness are not things to be ignored, but rather very important tools that can help you to flourish, to manage your life better, to act as a buffer against physical or mental illness, and to lead the authentic life you are born to lead.

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!

Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.

To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.

  1. Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
  2. Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
  3. Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
  4. Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.

The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.

Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/

Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.

7 Ways A Kindness Company Culture Can Boost Your Bottom Line

7 Ways A Kindness Company Culture Can Boost Your Bottom Line

Have you ever stopped to wonder what your company culture is centred around?

The topic of kindness at work would probably be considered controversial and unnecessary for a traditional organisation. However, as our need for happiness and satisfaction at work grows, kindness becomes a valuable and inexpensive method to change your company culture and boost your bottom line.

While in the past kindness may have been perceived as weakness, research is growing in support of the positive impact that a kindness company culture can have not only on your employees, but on your company’s success.

A primary concern for most companies in today’s economy is to ensure a secure bottom line, and to stabilise its workforce to guarantee consistent and sustainable income. And while this is a necessary consideration for any business to survive, the need for healthy and happy employees is imperative for any business to thrive. We know that a people focus builds profits, and while the tendency may be to lead the way we were led, if we are to create impactful and happy organisations we need to learn a new set of skills. Kindness, among other things such as resilience, engagement and purpose, plays a key role in building positive, productive workplaces.

For those of us who have experienced rudeness, pettiness or have been the butt of an office joke, the value of kindness is obvious. However, a growing body of research is showing some interesting and important findings about why a kindness culture in your workplace will boost productivity and serve your bottom line. Here are some of the findings:

  1. Kindness boosts customer satisfaction and sales

Customers want to be treated with respect, and if they have a negative experience with your staff they are likely to share their experience with others, and if you’re unlucky on social media. In today’s economy it is genuine kindness that can give your company the competitive edge as it encourages people to return and spread the word about your business.

     2. Only 10% of people say thank you at work

This statistic, while true, is also terrifying and begs the following questions: Do you thank your staff for their efforts? Do you make an effort to show appreciation for even the small roles that people play in keeping your company going? It is a fundamental human need to be respected and held in high esteem. We want to belong, and when we are validated for our efforts we begin to build positive relationships. So, next time someone brings you a coffee, or cleans your office, be sure to say thank you – it costs nothing!

    3. Kindness increases positive relationships in the workplace

Kindness in the workplace can be as simple as saying thank you, holding the door for somebody, or offering to assist a stressed colleague. However, it can be translated into even more beneficial behaviours such as the sharing of information. A company culture that encourages people to share resources, information and recognition is the true sign of a kind company culture. Sharing increases productivity, problem solving and creativity, thus producing better products with a greater impact.

    4. Kindness increases inclusion and reduces lawsuits

Sexual harassment, racism, homophobia and other common HR issues are any leader’s biggest nightmare, because on top of affecting the office climate they can have a serious financial and PR impact. Breeding a company culture of kind words, non-judgemental listening, and sharing is a sure-fire way to reduce these incidences. A company culture that values respect above bias, holds all employees in esteem and holds rude people accountable, sets a strong foundation on which to build inclusion and diversity, thus breaking down harmful stereotypes and the punishable behaviours associated with it.

   5. Kindness is contagious

We already know the power of a smile and how when someone smiles at us we share it with others. The same works for acts of kindness. When someone does even a small act of kindness we want to repay this kindness either to that person or to others. Random acts of kindness have a powerful impact on our happiness levels because it feels good to do good. Encouraging this company culture of small acts of kindness in the form of volunteering time, offering coffee or helping a colleague are a few small ways for you to start boosting kindness in your company and in turn grow the happiness levels of your team and the individuals which keep it going. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

   6. A kindness company culture reduces absenteeism

A recent study into the cost of absenteeism because of stress-related conditions amounts to over £6.5 billion a year. Stress is therefore the number one biggest cause of absenteeism and loss of productivity to companies worldwide. It would be completely absurd to ignore the impact of stress on your employees as it has a direct impact on your bottom line.

Kindness is a small but effective first step to reducing stress in the workplace. As already mentioned, when there is a kindness company culture people are more willing to help each other, to share information which can ease another’s stress, and build positive relationships which reduce social anxiety and stress related to belonging to a team. Kindness is therefore a highly cost-effective strategy to reduce stress levels and combat the multitude of related conditions which are rising as a result.

   7. Kindness boosts attention and productivity

Research shows that when we are stressed or unhappy our attention is compromised. A good example is to consider how being tired affects your concentration, problem-solving ability, mistake making and time taken to complete a task. The same is true for unhappiness; it drains our cognitive capacity and in turn our quality and quantity of work output. As previously mentioned, kindness boosts well-being and overall happiness within an organisation which has a direct effect on the ability of your staff to achieve amazing results in a shorter time.

Take Home Message

There is a quote by the Dalai Lama that seems poignant to share at this time.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Kindness is perhaps the most underrated practice that you can use to leverage the best from your employees and build a sustainable income. Kindness impacts each individual, the relationships they build and the customers they serve. It is therefore in the best interests of every company hoping to stay relevant and competitive to invest time in building a kindness company culture.

Please share this article with anybody you feel would benefit. Consider this your act of kindness for the day, as sometimes even the kindest people you know need to have their passion reignited.

The Importance of Recovering After a Work Day to Make Employees Happy

The Importance of Recovering After a Work Day to Make Employees Happy

Encouraging recovery can make employees happy, create a more productive work environment and ultimately improve staff retention

Want to make your employees happy? Well then it’s important to take two minutes to read this article.. In the last decade the term ‘work-life’ balance has become very popular especially for those talking about ensuring happy employees in the workplace. Everyone strives towards it, are told how important it is, and does their best  to figure out what mechanisms work. There is no one-size-fits-all for all employees though. Calling it work-life balance appears paradoxical, almost like two opposing poles; work is life and life is work. Perhaps it’s about balancing life with its various domains. The term ‘work-life balance’ per se has no standard definition and means different things to different people. So, how do we begin to engage with work-life balance with so many unknown variables?

 

An aspect of work-life balance that I’ll write about, as it’s frequently overlooked or ignored, is the concept of recovery during and after work. Often, we associate recovery as the process of getting healthy after an illness, and link it to the opposite of fatigue or burnout. But we seldom view recovery as a much-needed process during a working day as well as part of recuperating from a full day’s work. Professor Stevan E. Hobfoll, from the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center in America defines recovery as the replenishment of mental and physiological resources used for the external demands placed on us.

In a work environment we experience two types of fatigue:

  • Physical fatigue – is associated with hard labour and muscular aches where appropriate rest time during the day is often adequate to rejuvenate the body.
  • Mental fatigue – is linked to cognitive thinking, planning, problem solving and attending meetings. A short rest period, as would be adequate in physical fatigue, is not enough here.

And that is where the challenge begins. We need longer and more frequent breaks in the mental fatigue mode to uphold our stamina and energy, but seldom take the necessary breaks.

Short breaks can lead to more motivated employees a more productive team and a happy workplace.

Furthermore, we are able to distinguish between internal and external recovery. Internal recovery refers to the short, scheduled breaks we take between work tasks to shift our attention or even purposefully distract us. We recognise that our mental stamina is temporarily depleted and we shift tasks, take short breaks, chat with colleagues or engage in a completely different mental activity. The short breaks delay our fatigue but are not enough to recover from the day’s mental fatigue. External recovery provides us with that much-needed rest and restoration time between working days, weekends, pubic holidays and holiday time. Working after hours cancels out our entire recovery time, and we go to work the next day, maybe with a reduced work load and fewer emails in our inbox, but with lower energy, and reduced performance and productivity levels.

Healthy Employees are Happy Employees

From a health point of view, getting enough rest and recovery time reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, sleep problems, fatigue and burnout. That being said, activities that positively influence and assist with the recovery process are sports and physical activities, connecting with friends, performing household activities and caring for your children. The sports and physical activities are shown to have the most significant effect, which is understandable because of the additional adrenalin and happy hormones that we feel afterwards. But there is more to why sports and physical activities win first prize, and that is because our brain can’t engage in the activity and simultaneously ruminate over a work situation. It’s one or the other which is fantastic for our brain to be able to get some forced downtime.

Allowing your employees to get into a rhythm will improve team motivation and employee happiness.

The final thing that I want to write about is the relevance of our circadian rhythm, our biological body clock. By nature some of us are early morning risers, while others are night owls and peak later during the day. Working with our biological energy system influences our entire human system from our hormones, body temperature, and sleep patterns, to our insulin and glucose cycle and moods and emotions. In short, it determines when we are physically and psychologically at our best. Unfortunately, working life doesn’t always allow us to work predominantly from our best performance state, and we often have to demonstrate peak performance when our body isn’t in that mode. We’ll need extra energy to think harder, stay alert, pay attention to detail and remain connected with people, with the end result that in the evening our energy is more depleted than normal. Our brains have used up all the energy possible, and we need to engage in additional recovery, rest and restoration time to return to a homeostatic balanced mode. Recommended techniques are for you to engage in down-time practises such as yoga, meditation or reading, and refraining from any stimulating activities.

By now you may have noticed that your recovery processes during the day and after work are actually ongoing. They require your continuous conscious and self-regulated attention. The downside to not recovering enough is that ruminating thoughts, negative emotions, disturbed attention span, fatigue and distorted sleep creep into our lives. Our health and overall well-being levels drop severely. I hope that with this article you are inspired to review and amend, where necessary, your recovery process between work days.

Want to read more about how to make employees happy and motivated? Click Here to find out about 5 Ways to Motivate Employees

References

Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualising stress. American Psychologist, Vol. 44, 513-524.

Zijlstra, F. R., & Sonnentag, S. (2006). After work is done: Psychological perspectives on recovery from work . European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 15(2), 129-138.

Zijlstra, F. R., Cropley, M., & Rydstedt, F. R. (2014). From Recovery to Regulation. An attempt to reconceptualise ‘recovery from work.

8 Feminine Values You Need in the Workplace

8 Feminine Values You Need in the Workplace

We know that times are changing. From being brazen in our industrial pursuits, there is now a growing awareness for the environment and the impact we have on the earth. We see this shift in our attention within the workplace too; from more dogmatic, hierarchical frameworks, we’re now moving into a more flexible, non-linear organisational structure. And along with these changes, we’re seeing a change in the way we work, interact and innovate.

Without wanting to disregard any other reasons, we believe this shift is primarily because of a movement from a patriarchal system to a more matriarchal approach. We’re speaking from the point of view that we all have both masculine and feminine qualities within us, and that we need to learn to include and embrace our feminine values. We do not need to overpower our masculine values, but rather bring both equally into everyday life so that we experience more balance and harmony inside and outside the office.

The Difference between Feminine and Masculine Values

Without going down the Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus path, it’s important to unpack the difference between masculine and feminine values. It’s also important for us to recognise that we (yes all of us) have both masculine and feminine qualities. We’re all able to direct rational action towards a considered goal, as much as we’re capable of caring for an injured friend. We can fight the enemy as much as we can nurture those who follow in our footsteps. We can organise and control as much as we’re able to endure the ever-changing economic climate with grace and hope. The point is that we’re all capable of great power, and in the past, we’ve been more tuned into the masculine side. The shift that’s happening now is a call for us to respect and enable our feminine values to bring ourselves and our companies into balance. Thus, creating a healthy, happy and prosperous future.

A Call for Feminine Values in the Workplace

In the past our companies have been built on power, strength, perseverance and hard work. And while these are essential characteristics in a successful business, we can no longer negate the need for the feminine values of democracy, collectivism, social intelligence and communication. These values have often been, and are still considered, second rate in many workplaces. They are low on the list of priorities when we consider the bottom line, and independence, personal gain and individuality are the behaviours that are rewarded.

With burn-out, stress, chronic fatigue, data overload and as we become an even more detached society, we need, more so than ever, to embrace feminine values in the workplace, and in our daily lives.

8 Feminine Values We Need in the Workplace

The importance of having feminine values in the workplace is essential for the success of companies going forward, and the attitude with which we embrace this new shift will set the innovators apart from the rest. In the list below, we offer you eight fundamental feminine values that you need to consider and embrace to get the most from and for your team. The list includes the work of Anne Litwin and Joyce Fletcher, authors in the field of the feminine at work.

Let’s dive in!

Value 1: Intuition

Did you know that you have as many neurons in your gut as in your spinal column? That’s why you need to “trust your gut”. However, we’re taught from an early age to counter our intuitions with cognitive reasoning, as if these belly intuitions are less valuable than their brainy counterparts.

There are two levels of intuition: the gut response or a “feeling” you get about a situation, and the judgement calls you make. These both need to be brought to your attention before taking action, or the impulsivity and indecision will leave your team feeling frustrated.

The Lesson: Trust your intuition and make careful judgements.

 

Value 2: Holistic “360-degree” Focus

There is a large body of research that substantiates how women think differently to men. An appropriate analogy is: the male brain is like a filing cabinet (everything in its right place), while a woman’s brain is like a messy spider’s web (everything connected to everything else).

This quality is often thought of as unfocused and less effective, however, this style of thinking allows for a more holistic perspective where everything is considered to ensure the best solution for all. This style of thinking often leads to increased creativity and innovation when problem-solving and can be especially helpful when doing strategy and business development.

The Lesson: Consider your problem from all possible angles, including the web of impact it will have on those within and outside the company.
 

Value 3: Democratic Collectivism

The saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is exactly what this value is all about. The essence of collectivism is about finding the best situation for everyone involved. Clearly, this value was left by the wayside by almost all pioneering industrialists of the past – which is how we’ve ended up with the social and environmental repercussions we have now.

To consider the collective is to ensure and empower the voice of every individual within your organisation. A democracy may be “ineffective” in a business setting; however, your staff are the first interaction your clients have with the company. If they’re unfulfilled or neglected, do you think they will provide the best service to your customers?

The Lesson: Respect each part of the machine that is your company. A validated collective is better than any single individual.
 

Value 4: Connection

Relationships are the number one reason why people leave or stay in their job. This means that the connections made at work will directly determine how committed a person is to the company. It’s, therefore, an essential component to any successful business to enable and encourage healthy, professional connections in the workplace. Open, transparent communication which provides clarity, unity and motivation is sure to bring out the best in your team, and in turn, they will trust and support your decisions.

Another valuable point here is that every individual has capabilities which will expand and enhance your company’s mission. When these skills and strengths are known and enabled in each individual, the organisation’s potential increases exponentially.

The Lesson: Make a conscious effort to connect with each individual in your company.
 

 

Value 5: Empathy

To understand another’s suffering and provide support and space is a truly feminine quality. And while you may feel that this may “not be appropriate for the workplace”, you’re sadly mistaken. We’re only one person and having a work personality and a home personality is tiring and is, fortunately, becoming outdated.

Having empathy for your employees means you will recognise the difficulties they experience, and this will translate to your clients as well. If you practice empathy, you will become more in touch with your customers wants and needs.

Empathy with your team can practically come down to flexibility – with time, hours and commitments. Flexibility increases engagement and staff morale and reduces absenteeism and staff turnover.

The Lesson: Practice empathy and the rewards will be double what you put in.
 

Value 6: Mutual Interdependence

This value is perhaps one of the hardest to incorporate into a traditional corporate environment because of the built-in hierarchy and independent culture. However, a high-performing team will always outperform the individuals within the group and knowing the impact that every team member has on each other’s success is a valuable step in creating mutually beneficial and high-quality outcomes.

Another point to consider is that when there is a culture of interconnection, there will be a greater number of perspectives, opinions and ideas which, when harnessed, can create far superior outcomes.

The Lesson: Harness the power of interdependence and move upward faster.
 

Value 7: Emotional Engagement

For many of us, emotions are things that are left at the door, or in a lot of cases not even expressed behind closed doors. The skill of engaging emotions in the workplace is an artform and will take years to perfect, but we have to start somewhere.

Emotions are part of all of us and getting along is not always easy. It is inevitable that people won’t always get along and this friction can be the source of most dissonance in the workplace. This does not end well and can lead to people leaving the company or disengaging from their workplace, creating an unhealthy culture.

When we can openly own our emotions, they lose their power and we become more honest and authentic. This word authentic is not so simple to achieve, but it is a value which we need to strive for because when we bring our whole self to work we perform, connect, engage and innovate better.

The Lesson: Encourage emotional intelligence through open, constructive communication and non-judgemental listening.
 

Value 8: Supportive Leadership Style

We’ve all experienced it – the boss that makes our life a living hell. And hopefully, some of you will remember a leader who was a mentor, who saw your unique potential and helped guide you to become a better version of yourself.

These are the kinds of leaders we need in this world – ones who support weaknesses and nurture strengths so that the workplace becomes a place of learning, growth and development.

The Lesson: Be the leader you wish you had.
 

In Conclusion

Embodying feminine values is no longer a “nice-to-have”, but rather they’ve become necessary to remain sustainable, successful and balanced as a society. As a disclaimer before you go out and practice them: for each of the values mentioned above, there is a masculine counterpart that needs to be present for a good balance to occur. Please also remember that these are not female (gender) qualities, but rather the feminine attributes which are within all of us. You have the ability to become a powerful person for your family, community and company, but this requires the awareness, intent and knowledge of both sides of the coin.

This article is written for anybody who wishes to embrace the shift and create a healthy balance in their personal and professional life.

We wish you luck. We’re here to support you on your leadership journey.

12 Criteria that Make People Happy at Work

12 Criteria that Make People Happy at Work

The Global Happiness Policy Report 2018 was presented at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February. It covers a wide range of topics from positive education, happy countries and cities to live in, good corporate governance, social well-being, the cost of mental illness and workplace well-being. Since assisting leaders and companies to develop and maintain happiness in the workplace is my personal passion, I want to focus on sharing the main workplace features of the 2018 global research and trends.

Work plays a central role in most people’s lives which is understandable as we spend one third of our time there. Also, our work impacts our level of happiness and overall life satisfaction by a staggering 83%, and looking at the three core drivers that make up life satisfaction: finances, health and work, that high number speaks for itself. All life satisfaction drivers are closely connected and affect our daily decisions, actions and head space. People don’t always think of their work as particularly enjoyable or find tasks stimulating, but being employed has a crucial impact on our overall well-being. Full-time employees have the highest life satisfaction score (5.7), with part-time employees in second place (5.5). Self-employment comes in third place (5.0) and unemployment (4.75) has the most negative impact on life satisfaction. These scores are all out of 6. Women are generally more satisfied with their lives in all employment categories. As much as we moan about our work, boss and/or colleagues, employment gives people a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s a place where we can connect socially with others and have a daily routine.

The Global Happiness Policy Report compares world regions with regard to work satisfaction. The front runners are New Zealand (87,4%), Europe (86,4%) and North America (85,8%). On the lower end, Russia comes in at 75,2%, East Asia (72,8%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (60,2%).

This makes me wonder which criteria define a good job. Researchers did exactly that – identified 12 criteria across various countries, industries and positions, standardising the statistics, which enabled them to determine which work criteria is more important and impactful on people’s overall well-being and job satisfaction. So basically, in a nutshell, which criteria matter most to employees.

The 12 work criteria, defined by Andrew Clark in 2009, are described below in the order of ranking from the most important to the least.

  1. Interpersonal relationships: this is the most important workplace criteria and has a huge effect on job satisfaction and our well-being. Our work tasks are generally structured in such a way that we interact with customers, colleagues and supervisors all day and this interaction means a lot to us and will have a negative impact if things are not going well.
  2. Interesting job: it might come as a surprise as to how important having an interesting job is on job and life satisfaction. The fact is that having an interesting job matters to everybody, regardless of position, education or the company you work for.
  3. Pay: this is universally important to people’s life satisfaction and it’s no surprise that it receives a high ranking. It is made up of two components: the actual income earned for work produced, and the subjective assessment if one’s pay is perceived as fair and equitable. People view pay as proof of their level of input and productivity.
  4. Work-life imbalance: this has the most negative impact on job satisfaction and overall life well-being. It is divided into three aspects: work interfering with one’s family is the most prevalent, then the difficulty of taking time off work at short notice. and finally having to work on weekends.
  5. Difficulty, stress and danger: this is made up of two elements: physically straining work and stressful work. Stressful work is the most dominant component and has a significant relationship with employee workplace well-being. Physically straining work is a concern but one that can be mitigated with good health and safety policies.
  6. Job security: surprisingly this is also in the middle of the rankings. The reason for this could be because underemployment (the condition in which people are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs) in some countries overshadows over employment (a condition in which the demand for labour exceeds the available supply) in others.
  7. Opportunities for advancement: this seems to become more important for job and life satisfaction the higher one’s education level. What is relevant is the perceived progress an opportunity provides and is determined by clear goal-setting including well-defined, measurable goals.
  8. Independence: this is also known as autonomy. It’s about the employee being able to make decisions as to what extent they want to work independently, at home or at the office, with the choice of organising their own work tasks and how many hours they want to work. It’s about allowing employees to craft and structure their jobs and increases employee engagement and job satisfaction to a large degree while reducing burnout.
  9. Skills match: this is moderately important for employee well-being. On the one hand there is participation in skills training, and on the other hand, whether the skills learnt match the requirements of the job. That being said, a leader’s level of effectiveness has a 72% effect on an employee’s level of engagement and use of their skills, which might justify why this criteria is ranked in the middle.
  10. Usefulness: this refers to pro-social behaviour that is intended to benefit one or more individuals other than oneself. Common activities would be helping others, sharing information or co-operating in a team environment. However, the component that matters the most is volunteering and doing good for others outside of the work environment.
  11. Working hours mismatch: this is the difference between the actual hours you work versus the number of hours you would like to work. This criterion has a negative effect on life satisfaction. Also, things such as over employment and underemployment arise and it is no surprise that over employment has a hugely negative effect on an employee’s well-being and the members of their household.
  12. Working hours: this is surprising, but the working hours mismatch and work-life imbalance have absorbed this criteria.

You might be surprised by some of the rankings. I know I was, but in the end what is important is what you decide to do with this information. It’s not often that we have the privilege of seeing this type of employee research on workplace well-being, job satisfaction and happiness. But knowing what matters most to employees enables leaders to stop assuming or focusing on less relevant criteria.

Now that you have this information, you can work with the criteria and establish how you as a leader can influence and increase the criteria that matters the most to your employees.