I’m intrigued about the topic of corporate kindness and how being nice can actually be a competitive advantage. In The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, they explain how friendliness and common courtesy along with how you look affects people’s moods and attitudes towards you. Cheerfulness and being polite and respectful spreads more easily than irritability and facial expressions and body language convey more relevant information than a sales pitch.
It’s all about the notion of consequences and karma – people may forget what you say, but they never forget how you made them feel. They remember acts of kindness as well as rudeness. After all, isn’t business and all of the world about relationships and how we connect with others be it inside or outside our organization?
Another book, The Kindness Revolution: The Company-Wide Culture Shift That Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service by Ed Horrell identifies how companies with stellar street reps for service excellence practice extreme kindness, respect, fairness and genuine niceties. He notes that the opposite of kindness isn’t being mean, it’s indifference. When indifference sets in, then it gives people a bad experience and in a world of choices, the customer (internal or external) chooses to walk. In fact, you can say that about any relationship – when indifference and disrespect and unkindness sets in, most people walk.
With a little more corporate kindness and consideration, I would argue that we would have many more gruntled workers than disgruntled workers. And we could actually save lives…one statistic form the Department of Labor cites that the #2 killer of workers on the job is homicide by a disgruntled colleague or customer. What are you doing to impart kindness in your daily activities? What are you doing to add light to the world? What are you doing to save a life today?
- Some tips from Love ‘Em, Don’t Lose ‘Em on keeping good people:
- Support personal and professional growth – are you building their future or are you a barrier
- Enrich the job function – do they have to leave to find growth, excitement, and challenge
- Is your worksite family friendly – do they have to choose between family life and work life or can they balance both
- Expand options for advancement – there are five career paths other than up
- Create opportunities for challenge, learning, growth, fun, enthusiasm, ownership, and a chance to feel valued – if they don’t find it inside, they will seek it outside
- Become a better listener – they want to tell their story and they want to know they matter and that somebody cares – when you tune out, you lose out and they move out
- Share the power, share the wealth, share the knowledge, share the praise, share the celebrations, and tell the truth
- Keep in mind the worth ethic when creating a work ethic in your organization. From the book Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life, Joe Robinson discusses how the operative ethic in our lives should be our worth ethic. “Measure the madness around you by whether it has worth for you, instead of whether you are worthy enough to take the ceaseless beating. Does it bring you significance, satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, contribution, challenge? Or does it cut you off from sources of internal worth, isolate you, and sabotage your health? That’s not worth it, no matter the dough.”
Organizational and individual energy have hit some low points. Workers are stressed out, rusted out, burned out and ready to walk out according to some pollsters with their finger on the pulse of productivity. Read below on some of their findings on what’s going down and what you can do to help energize yourself in the midst of it all.
- Boring jobs kill. The researchers at the University Of Texas School Of Public Health found that workers who spend their lives in undemanding jobs with little control over their work are 35% more likely to die during a 10-year period than workers in challenging jobs with lots of options and decision-making. Learning how to deal with the stress and cope with the job demands help you to become stronger and more resilient to stress as published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
- Attitudes roll downhill from supervisors to front-line staff to customers, and keep them coming back. Try delighting your employees. When employees are treated well, they will treat your customers well, and people like doing business with people who like doing business.
- Enhance your energy and image over the phone by answering with your vocal tone ending on a higher note than at the beginning of the greeting. When your tone goes up, it conveys enthusiasm about the call. When your tone goes down, it conveys a more abrupt and annoyed feeling. Standing or at least sitting up straight improves breathing and vocal tone.
- Make a point to take a mid-day break and get away from your desk or other workplace to take a mental health break in order to come back refreshed and more productive. Average American workers only spend 15 minutes per day for lunch and most eat on the run, at their desk, or in their car.
- Absenteeism hit a 7-year record high according to a survey of 401 companies. 25% of absences were taken by people who weren’t really sick. Citing the main reasons for playing hooky- stress, and belief that workers had earned the time off. One of the winning excuses was, “If it is all the same to you, I won’t be coming to work. The voices told me to clean all the guns today.”
- A USA Today survey showed 75% of CEO’s and 88% of middle managers listed balancing work and family as a major concern. What are you doing in your life to actively balance personal and professional stuff?
- A Gallup Poll found 4 out of 10 workers report that they are frequently angry while at work. Maybe they should call in sick and stay home to work on balancing their life? If you notice your fuse getting shorter; take a look at your balance between personal and professional lives and actively work on simplifying and putting more fun into your day.
- A poll by Maritz Research found dissatisfaction with the way employers offer recognition. The survey of 1001 adults nationwide found 34% of them do not feel they are recognized for their work performance in ways that are important to them. Only 40% felt they were adequately recognized.
- Other findings indicated 26% of employees are unhappy with the way they are managed and 32% intend to change jobs. These restless employees say they’re looking for better compensation and career opportunities. Now comes word that, at least in the advertising, marketing and creative industries, only half of recently polled firms are concerned with employee retention. The Creative Group, a staffing services company in Menlo Park, Calif., reports ad agency executives and senior marketing executives with the nation’s 1,000 largest companies may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Many companies don’t focus on retention until it’s too late to staunch the flow of experienced, productive people, says Tracey Fuller, executive director of The Creative Group. Now is the time to ensure top performers feel valued and respected, and have positive interactions with their managers.
Over the years I’ve interviewed many hundreds of clients in what they do to keep their customers, care for their clients, and show their colleagues they really matter in more ways than the obvious. I’ve compiled some of my favorites for you to glean from them on what they’re doing right to reach out and show their workplace love.
- Surprise your team and take them to lunch, to a mall with $50 each and tell them they must spend it all on themselves and whoever has money left over will give it back to you.
- If you are game – or in good financial standing – take them on a trip or a cruise such as Phillips International’s Chairman, Tom Phillips who took 1350 employees and their families on a Disney Cruise to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary. Meeting planners who are interested in cruises as incentive programs can visit www.corporatecruises.com for deck plans and virtual tours of 360 ships and an online RFP service as well as destination info and tax-deductibility guidelines. Another site for unbiased info on cruises and destinations is www.cruisecritic.com. Bon Voyage!
- Forget the Euro – time is the currency of the new millennium and giving the gift of time is a powerful incentive. Almost 40% of Americans now work more than 50 hours per week (National Sleep Foundation) and Americans work up to 12 weeks more in total hours per year than Europeans with 26% of all US employees not taking a vacation according to a study by Boston College. Many companies are now offering perks and incentives to help employees gain back some time such as giving them the services of a lawn care company, pest control, monthly house cleaning, or having a car detailer visit the workplace. ServiceMaster offers these types of home services on a large scale across the country.
- One of my early clients, Northwestern Mutual has a dry cleaner pick up and deliver clothes to the workplace. Their dry cleaner also offered to accept Fed Ex packages for workers during the holidays and then deliver them to the workplace to avoid having holiday packages sit on doorsteps or having to drive to the Fed Ex shop to pick them up. They also offer several clubs and affinity groups in their organization such as a choral group, a band, and professional associations for staff to meet others with similar interests and promote loyalty and a sense of community. People are less likely to leave a community of friends than a company of cubicles.
- Below are ideas from various clients on what they’re doing to show they care about their teammates:
- Help keep employees healthy and informed about their health and well-being to reduce your costs for sick-leave, mental-health day absences, retention, and insurance claims. Here are some tips for planning a wellness program excerpted from Human Capital Magazine:
- Provide people with the facts, and raise awareness regarding the risks of being overweight.
- Help them identify risk factors including Body Mass Index and blood pressure.
- Empower employees to change and provide them with the knowledge and tools to improve their situation – books, trainers, coaches, nurses, health club memberships, time off each week to work out, seminars, seated massages, healthy choices in the cafeteria, and smoking cessation or Weight Watchers classes.
- Implement a total wellness program into your menu of options for employees – more than an exercise program, it includes a combination of activities that focus on health promotion and disease prevention and healthy, active lifestyles.
- The Society for Human Resource Management’s annual survey of several hundred employee benefit managers found that 31% subsidize or reimburse gym membership fees, 22% provide on-site fitness centers, 24% offer weight-loss programs, and 11% offer nutrition counseling.
- One high-tech company in Washington DC gave employees a stipend for monthly house cleaning and yard work to allow them extra time to work out – no excuses for not having enough time.
- A survey by Career Builder.com found that the majority of workers are dissatisfied with their career progress with 63% reporting that finding a better job would improve their quality of life.
What are you doing for your team to energize them and help increase their quality of life at work? How are you showing your team that you care about them in more ways than giving them a paycheck?
After spending a few decades studying employee recognition, resilience, workplace culture, personal energy and organizational moral. I’ve compiled some fun facts on the issues and top reasons for turnover:
- give meaningless raises
- give insincere thank you’s
- throw them into jobs without training or qualifications
- allow a disorganized, dirty workplace
- freak out by visits from authority
- my way or the highway – because I’m the boss
- overlook unacceptable behavior – inconsistent discipline
- ignore opinions and ideas from staff
- lack of feedback
- and…… drum roll please……. ugly uniforms (who knew?!)
- A Fast Company magazine reader poll asked for the wish list of their subscribers and questioned whether they would prefer dollars or downtime as a reward for a job well done. 61% said they would give up some of their pay for more time with their family. 39% said they would give up some pay for less stress. 59% of men said that given an extra hour, they would spend it with their family. 6% said they would spend the extra hour on work.
- In another Fast Company reader poll: 10% of Americans say stress-induced physical violence has occurred in their workplace. 42% have experienced yelling and verbal abuse in their workplace. 52% sometimes have to work more than 12 hours a day to get their job done. 26% say it’s time for their employer to redecorate. So if you’re spending so much time at work and getting yelled at to do it – you may as well be in a nice environment for most of those hours. The civility of colleagues sometimes goes out the door when placed under stress. When things get heated, be aware of the humanity in the workplace and consciously try to keep it in the workplace for everybody’s sake.
- Stress costs US industry over $150 billion yearly. Stress-related products and services are a $9.4 billion industry. (The GDP of El Salvador is only $11.4 billion.)
- Gallup interviewed two million workers at 700 companies and their conclusion was “The length of an employee’s stay in an organization is largely determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.” This translates to people leaving managers, and not leaving companies. What are you doing to pump up your managerial and people skills in order to retain your top talent?
- Some questions to ask your team in order to gain some insight into their most important issues and engage them in meaningful conversations:
- What is the one thing I could do better for you?
- If you were CEO for the day – what would you change to improve the quality of life here?
- What motivates you?
- How would you like to be recognized when you do good work?
- What would a good job look like?
The magazine Business 2.0 conducted a reader survey of 6439 people on the single factor that most heavily influences job satisfaction which, by the way, influences life balance:
- 60.3% the work I do is interesting/engaging
- 26% size of my salary
- 7.5% getting along well with colleagues
- 6.2% getting along with my boss
- From a survey of work/life balance by careerbuilder.com; 4 out of 5 respondents expect at least some flexibility from their employer when arranging daily work schedules. Over 29% would like to be able to set their own hours, while 52% would like the ability to negotiate their own hours.
- Many organizations are offering online incentives to make it easier to administer a reward and recognition system that is fresh and timely. Here are some sites that offer the gamut of corporate gifting and incentives:
- Some of these sites offer just gifts while other offer value-added services such as incentive program setups and program consultants to help you launch your program or pump up your morale with their services. With some of these sites, you can let the recipients choose their incentive or gift that enhances the motivating factor.
- Don’t think incentives and rewards are important? Did you know that?
- 46% of employees leaving a company do so because they feel unappreciated
- 61% said their bosses don’t place much importance on them as people
- 88% said they do not receive enough acknowledgment for their work
- Think again about your organization – what gets rewarded, gets repeated
According to CCH, Inc. – an HR research firm, the Unscheduled Absence Survey found the number of employees missing work for personal reasons has increased to 21% from 11% last year. Of the 333 human resources executives surveyed, personal illness was cited 33%, with 67% absent due to personal reasons resulting in a cost of $789 million.
The study found that an increase in morale significantly lowers the number of absentees. Organizations with good overall morale has a 1.9% absentee rate while others averaged 2.4%. The more options employees have, the better the morale and the lower the absentee rate. Two of the major things to do this are provide more flexible time off and offer more work/life programs such as childcare, working from home or compressed work weeks.
The top four most cited incentives to keep workers working for you according to a survey of 352 employers by the American Management Association:
- Sending employees to conferences and training
- Tuition reimbursement
- Skills training
- Pay for performance
A “new” way to recognize employees: ask them to participate in an important project they might not otherwise work on. Using involvement to reward workers tells them that you value their performance and it provides you with a pool of creative thinkers.
Beat the turnover odds: in the fast food industry with turnover rates close to 100%, one owner explains his staff longevity of 8-10 years at a Chick-Fil-A is due to his treating them like customers and greeting them daily, talking to them throughout the day, and saying good-bye when they leave. Talking to them -what a concept!
When the economic times are tough – it’s time to energize employees and make sure you hold on to your top talent. Here are some hints to keep them around:
* Celebrate all the victories, no matter how small
* Look for other incentives besides money – ask them
* Consider changing some work hours – be flexible
* Take more time for personal connections at work
* Don’t focus on the negatives, keep the talk positive
* If business is slow – take the time to do foundational things and create new programs or write personal
notes to staff thanking them for their work – do the things that you normally wouldn’t have time to do
* Keep networking in your industry – invite a colleague
* Create a terrific atmosphere in the break room or the bathrooms to make people feel as if they matter – take care of your team by taking care of their space
I began studying what energizes individuals about 30 years ago and it morphed into researching what energizes organizations in the 1990’s. It was fascinating to me how some people had so much energy to burn and others seemed drained much of the time. The same with organizations. Some seemed to have an engaged and excited workforce powered on their own “esteem engines” and others needed the command control to keep them producing out of fear and threat of paycheck revocation.
When I read about the enormous undertaking of one of Gallup’s largest and longest undertakings studying employee engagement; it proved what I had been seeing first-hand in consulting with companies around the world. A mere 30 % of employees in America feel actively engaged at work. And now their 21013 version of the study found that around the world it falls to just 13%. Their study goes on to report that 55% are disengaged and 20% are actively disengaged and doing things to sabotage the effort. So instead of work being an enthusiastic expression of our gifts and talents; it would seem that it is anything but for most employees.
Last fall, interested in what makes employees satisfied, energized and productive; the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries and results were remarkably similar across all populations.
Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, when 4of their core needs are met:
- Physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work
- Emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions
- Mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done
- Spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work
The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these 4 core needs, the more likely they experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress. When employees have one need met, compared with none, all of their performance variables improve. The more needs that are met, the more positive the impact.
Employee engagement that includes involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, focused effort and energy has been found to improve performance. Something we know in our gut and something Gallup once again proved to be true. Gallup found that companies in the top quartile for engaged employees, compared with the bottom quartile, had 22 % higher profitability and 10% higher customer ratings. The way we feel at work is critical to how we perform.
The following is an excerpt from a report of that study:
Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take 0-1 during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46% higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 % people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.
Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67% more engaged.
Focus: Only 20% of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50% more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.
Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.
Leaders must embrace the softer side of business and know that how employees feel is as important as what they know and what they can do. If they don’t feel like doing it, they won’t. If they don’t feel valued, they walk. If they don’t feel respected, they leave or call in sick. If they don’t feel inspired and energized and feel like they matter; they won’t produce. Leaders much pay attention to what was previously thought of as soft skills and ensure they ask employees what would make them feel more energized, more cared for and what would improve their quality of life at work.
Other things I’ve seen client companies do is to create fitness facilities and nap rooms, and to provide healthy, high-quality food for free, or at subsidized prices, offer dry cleaning pick-up or car detailing in the workplace. Others offer Fed-ex and UPS delivery and drop off for employees and promise not to make meetings more than 90 minutes tops. Still others have bowls of M&M’s next to the coffee pots in the break rooms. What can you do as a leader to embrace the softer side of the workplace and energize your employees? It starts with a simple question of asking them what they want out of the relationship with their job and what do they need to feel better about working there. Baked goods is always a good start.
The energy of leaders is contagious. When leaders explicitly encourage employees to work in more sustainable ways and model that behavior; their employees are substantially more engaged, more focused, and more likely to stay at the company, according to the Harvard Business Review. Start inquiring now before you lose more employees to someplace that cares more about them, shows them they are concerned with how they feel and shows how they value them on many levels.
What is your function in life? Studies show that those who have a purpose, and are actively working towards achieving their goals, are happier than those who just show up for life each day. Set goals, change them, as your needs or situations change, and actively work on them. Do you have a mission statement and vision statement for creating your personal life as well as running your business or working in your organization? How does your professional function merge with your personal purpose? Writing down your goals, your purpose, and your function help to ingrain those visions into your subconscious to assist you in achieving them and giving you energy by looking forward to them. I’ve said it before in other posts – find your why that makes you cry and you’re on your way to living out your calling.
Anticipating and preparing for congruent personal and professional functions add energy and enthusiasm to your life. Knowing your function can give you the strength to face adversity in the world. Help increase your resilience to stress by choosing to align your workplace values with your personal values and purpose. When these two foundational things are congruent, you get the least stress and the most energy from the partnership. A playbook by Kathie Hightower called Your Enchanted Life: A Journal of Discovery & Delight at www.JumpIntoLife.net has tons of exercises and action steps to help you discover your function and what you really want. Spend some quiet time and meditate on your fuction and your why, then match that to how you can best serve. I find that being in nature helps me clear my head and clarify my thoughts.