July 29, 2014 | Posted in: Leading Hartfully, Living Hartfully

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:

  1. Physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work
  2. Emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions
  3. 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
  4. 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.

As the CEO (Chief Energizing Officer) at Hartful Living including GaiaHart.com and BizBuilderCards.com; I’m a Messenger and Mentor for women entrepreneurs, connecting them to their capacity to energize their work and their lives in the art of living Hartfully. At BizBuilderCards.com, you can make a living through giving with greeting cards and gifts to build your network net worth as an additive to your current business or an easy way to send gratitude and kindness to the world.