Enjoying Your Work
Everyone benefits when employees feel like management cares about them
In psychologically healthy workplaces, employees feel that they are valued by executives. They feel that they can make contributions to organizational decision making, can grow and develop as both workers and citizens of their communities, and can look upon their work as a valued part of their lives.
The American Psychological Association gives awards for companies whose executives insist on a healthy environment for employees. In last week's column I discussed three of the Association's five criteria and how award-winning companies performed in exemplary ways according to the guidelines for the development and maintenance of a healthy workplace.
These include employee participation in developing company policy and in everyday decision making, the encourage- ment of work-family balance, and personal development in ways beneficial to the company and to individual employees.
A fourth criterion of an award-winning workplace is that health and safety are constantly emphasized.
An offshore supply vessel corporation in Nova Scotia has expanded its medical plan from the basic coverage typically found in organizations to one that is much more comprehensive. The improved plan focuses on nutrition, weight loss, smoking cessation, and chronic-disease prevention. Programs are available to both employees and family members.
A marine industrial-maintenance company in Honolulu has a comprehensive safety program aimed at accident prevention. Policies include the identification of risky procedures, task analysis emphasizing ways of reducing risks, and the development of safety protocols. Safe workplace behaviors are practiced during training sessions. Safety monitors are present to make certain that the protocols are followed.
Executives and employees at a professional services organization in Kent, Ohio, cooperated in the development of a senior day-care program. Employees could be more productive, and less stressed, since they knew that specialists were looking after the needs of their elderly parents.
The fifth criterion deals with the recognition of excellent individual and team performance. Managers at a manufacturing company in Honeoye, N.Y., conducts highly interactive team meetings, called "huddles." Employees participate in their own work-plan development and analysis, and they set goals for designated future time periods.
They also develop methods for measuring progress during the time necessary for goal accomplishment.
When executives document substantial progress according to the agreed upon measures, they then recognize individuals and teams that have made important workplace contributions. Recognition can take the form of low-cost awards such as trophies and certificates, and they can involve monetary rewards such as bonuses.
Both employees and executives reap benefits when these criteria are given attention in the workplace. Employees experience greater job satisfaction, increased motivation and morale, and improved ability to manage personal stress.
An organization's executives are likely to see improvements in the quality of services and products, increases in employee performance, reduced absenteeism, fewer accidents and injuries, and thus lower health care costs.
In addition, employee turnover decreases. This means that executives do not have to oversee frequent and expensive job searches for new hires.
It also means that they do not have to bear other costs associated with frequent turnover. These costs include the training of new employees and the time needed for experienced employees to act as mentors to newcomers.
Other benefits are less quantifiable but nevertheless real.
Companies that emphasize behaviors associated with the five workplace criteria develop reputations as good places to work. They attract many applicants when there are job openings, and so executives can be highly selective and can choose the best and the brightest. Excellence can be expected in both intellectual abilities and social skills. Once they are hired, many of these highly qualified employees are likely to become involved in community activities that bring positive attention to the company. This can lead to new business, company growth, and continuing opportunities for employee career development.
The purpose of this column is to increase understanding of human behavior as it has an impact on the workplace. Given the amount of time people spend at work, job satisfaction should ideally be high and it should contribute to general life happiness. Enjoyment can increase as people learn more about workplace psychology, communication, and group influences.
is a professor in the College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii. He can be reached through the College Relations Office at email@example.com