Friday, 12 September 2014

Avoid engagement akin to a house built on sand

The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey from Towers Watson puts a spotlight on the link between stress and engagement – but risks sending us the wrong way for potential solutions.

We all know that high levels of stress can be destructive and I’m not sure this survey offers any revelations when suggesting it affects engagement.  Both absenteeism and presenteeism are known phenomena in this context and we have seen the effects explored in many studies in the past.
But what do we do about it? Rebekah Haymes from Towers Watson suggests employers could educate staff on “the benefits of more sleep, physical activity, good nutrition and work-life balance”.

Really? Surely the high levels of stress explored in the survey can lead to lack of sleep and a poor work-life balance in the first place. I’d be pretty peeved if the manager whose excessive demands were placing me under massive pressure and ripping the heart out of my home life started telling me I should go to bed early. 
Ms Haymes is on firmer ground when she hints that effective communication and feedback structures have an important role to play. Reviewing and strengthening processes for sharing information and building dialogue can help to shape the type of open, collaborative culture that enhances engagement and helps reduce stress.

Employers need to consider a range of factors here. These include the way leaders set out and involve people in where the organisation is going (and why). How information on company plans and progress is shared. How teams and individuals are prepared for (and supported in) their roles. How managers seek and respond to questions, ideas and concerns.
Assessing such areas – and taking action where required – can help to create a more involving, engaging and productive culture for employees and leaders alike. It’s not a quick fix, nor a simple solution. Anyone with experience of trying to nurture cultural change will tell you that. But it’s far more likely to have a successful (and sustainable) impact for an organisation - and the people within it – than seeking to educate stressed employees on sleep patterns. Such initiatives may have their place, but only when more fundamental issues have been addressed. In any other context, they will be like a house built on sand.  

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

I don't want no satisfaction

Holidays meant I missed this little gem exploring factors informing adaptability to change.

It summarises research suggesting that highly satisfied employees don’t always advocate change. Which seems to me fairly obvious: satisfaction inevitably equates to contentment with the status quo. And that hardly breeds enthusiasm and energy for change.
To me, it’s another reason why exploring employee satisfaction is a complete red herring (don’t even get me started on ‘happiness’). Far better to focus on nurturing a culture that inspires and supports people to keep growing and challenging. To go beyond what’s needed. To look for ways of changing how things are done.

Such spirit doesn’t come from being satisfied, it springs from being dissatisfied – or at least being unwilling to accept that the way things are is the way they should always be. That’s what we need to be inspiring within our organisations, along with the systems and tools that help people turn such restless energy into efforts and activities that align with organisational goals.
Help employees connect with the company mission, strategy and values. Give them clarity on roles and expectations. Keep sharing information and discussing their questions and concerns. And give them the opportunity and autonomy to shape the world they work in.

There’s a lot covered by those 40 words. And no doubt much more besides them. But nurturing a culture along those lines is far more conducive to growth, and the change that’s necessary to spark it, than focusing on satisfaction with the status quo.