By: Mary Ellen Slayter
Every business, regardless of the industry, has to learn to do more with fewer resources. On the people side of the business, that means you need to get the best performance possible out of your employees. And, you need to do that without an outlay of cash for incentive bonuses, training or team meetings at 5-star resorts.
The secret to maximizing performance is to create an environment in which your employees are happy. A happy employee is highly engaged, flourishing and has achieved an acceptable work-life balance.
We know that high employee engagement leads to high performance. Recent studies by the Corporate Leadership Council, Towers Perrin and Development Dimensions International, show that a highly engaged workforce results in a 20% improvement in employee productivity, a 50% reduction in unplanned attrition and a 23% increase in customer satisfaction. But employee engagement is just part of the answer. To truly maximize the performance of your workforce, you also need to create an environment where they can flourish. Here’s how:
- Create a positive environment. Human flourishing, according to Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness…growth and resilience”. When a person is flourishing, they are thinking with their entire brain and make more ethical and creative decisions. In order for employees to flourish, they need a highly positive environment. They need frequent positive feedback, an environment in which ridicule and gossip are not tolerated and they need to know that they will not be punished for making a well-intentioned mistake.
- Manage based on expanding strengths. A strengths-based approach to management can unleash tremendous productivity, creativity and enthusiasm in a workforce. As described in “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” and other books by Marcus Buckingham, the strengths-based approach empowers employees to shape their job into their dream job. It begins with the employee identifying those activities at work that energize him (strengths) and those activities that drain him (weaknesses). He then discusses those strengths and weaknesses with his team and his manager and together, they find ways to gradually give him more of the work that energizes him and to find strategies to shrink the amount of time he spends on activities that drain him.
- Be flexible wherever you can. Many employees, especially those with young families, put a high premium on flexible work schedules and feel loyal to employers who provide it. We recently did a survey of over 1,000 women around the world for our book, “What Happy Working Mothers Know.” In response to the question “If you make one change about your work environment, what would it be”? 26.3% said they would increase the flexibility in their work schedule. Men crave flexibility, too.