Published December 17, 2013
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. What is the impact on professionals who feel they are ‘on call’ 24-7 but aren’t being paid to render this service? Turns out, others have been asking the same question. Recognizing that anxiety, burnout, and being overworked leads to poor productivity, loss of quality employees, and poor decision-making, a growing number of smart companies are demanding that their employees not only unplug after hours but check-out completely – yup, that means creating blackout periods where the entire shop, other than customer relations, shuts down.
From a sport perspective, we might call this strategy “rest and recovery to enhance our sport organization’s performance” – sound familiar? We program our athletes to rest because we know it is essential for their performance. I find it interesting how ‘on the field strategies’ can often translate into the executive office and boardrooms when we give ourselves permission to carry them over. What was once labeled the domain of ‘soft skills’ and ‘fluffy strategies’ is now being examined more closely by business strategists, researchers, and management consultants who are increasingly concerned with the impact of today’s business architecture and the demands on people’s well being. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that happy people + positive work environment + good strategy = business success. Let’s unpack this further:
Rather than cite research, I’m going to speak from my personal experience. I’m happy. I’ve carved out the right mix of work-life balance by staying true to my values. I am inspired by my work. I respect and admire my colleagues. I am passionate about the sector in which I work. I love and spend quality time with my family and friends. I work out … daily. I volunteer. I find ways to give back to things that are meaningful to me. Being happy is not easy. It requires discipline, the ability to stay focused, the courage to say ‘no’ and confidence in the internal knowledge of what drives us.
So how does this apply to running a highly effective and successful sport organization? Here are some tips to consider:
Positive Work Environment
Increasingly countries, organizations, and multinational businesses of all kinds are turning to the ‘happiness factor’ to measure productivity. Asking questions like “how happy are you at your place of work” and “what are ways we can enhance your happiness at work” or “on a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your organization in terms of being a fun place to work?” are more common now than they ever were before. Why is that? It turns out that on a global scale, countries are being assessed against their “Gross National Happiness”, an index that measures the population’s general level of well-being.
The idea behind this interesting concept is that if we begin to measure the levels of happiness and compare them to other factors like Gross Domestic Product, we might be able to paint a more holistic picture of the strengths that exist within the country. If we extrapolate this reasoning to a different unit of analysis – that of an organization for instance – we can better understand the relationship between inputs (people) and outputs (products and services). It’s safe to say that factors like skill, education, reputation and experience are all important ways to measure an employee’s fit with the organization’s culture. So too though are things like values, leadership style, personality traits, and communications competencies that are often the difference makers in retaining good people and determining which ones are not a good fit.
So how does this connect with happiness? It turns out that measuring an employee’s level of satisfaction can predict how long they will stay on a job, their productivity, their ability to manage risks, and their effectiveness. All are key components for running a ‘best-in-class organization’. For more research on this you can Google Stavos, Collins, and Miyashiro.
My daily work environment is focused on helping my clients create smart strategies. Increasingly I've been curious about the ‘why’ before focusing on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. If you can get people to a place that they are comfortable with the ‘why’, it becomes much simpler to articulate the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Here are some tips that I've acquired and written about here before … maybe using different language, but the idea is the same:
It is well-established that the things we measure are the things that get done. Human beings will naturally move towards what they are being measured against. If we start to care about and measure things like ‘happiness’ in our workplace by using different metrics, our staff will apply these elements in ways that will enhance our business success. So next time your employee leaves you an email at 11 PM on a Saturday night, don’t respond. On Monday morning tell them you are going to fine them for each e-mail that comes in after hours. Watch their jaws drop … and their productivity soar.