Business BooksLast week’s APA “Healthy Workplace Awards” should have been a celebration of all that is good in the work place, and they were. Congratulations to APA’s 2013 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Winners. Employee engagement matters, study after study has shown that it is one of the most significant factors in a business’s success. The winners represent the best from all the nominees, but I actually want to look at the other side of the coin for a moment.

In surveys completed by the winning organizations, on average, fewer than one in five employees (19 percent) reported experiencing chronic work stress, compared to 35 percent nationally, and 84 percent of employees said they were satisfied with their job, versus 67 percent in the general population. Additionally, 77 percent of employees said they would recommend their organization to others as a good place to work compared to 57 percent, and only 11 percent said they intend to seek employment elsewhere within the next year, compared to almost three times as many (31 percent) nationally.

Let me list that out:

  • 35 percent of employees reported experiencing chronic work stress.
  • 33 percent of employees are not satisfied with their job.
  • 43 percent of employees would not recommend their workplace.
  • 31 percent of employees intend to seek another job within 12 months.

If those were statistics from a customer survey, the management team and the board would probably be panicking. But this is worse. These are statistics on the working parts of the business, and health indicators across the working population. In this case, it is the US, but the UK has issues of it’s own.

“Good leadership has the power to energize, engage and motivate staff to go the extra mile for their organisation. Poor leadership will have the opposite effect, creating a demotivating environment and leading in time to poor team performance including high staff turnover and frequent absences.” Melody Moore, Hay Group.

Melody goes on to point out that leaders tend to use coercive leadership during times of crisis, and that the UK has seen a dramatic increase in the use of this leadership style:

“…a crisis is an event, not a prolonged state. Over-reliance on the coercive leadership style is unsustainable over the long-term, eroding innovation and creativity among employees.”

The current economic crisis has been on going for a long while, and shows very few signs of abating, so it is time to rethink how managers are leading. If you were told that a third of your workforcewas rendered ineffective, wouldn’t you want to do something about it?

The winners mentioned here, our good friends at DHL, and many others, are of course. It is often the best workers that are the least engaged, and so the most at risk of leaving or completely disengaging, leaving the poor performers to steer the ship.  Here are three steps to get your work place started:

  1. Assign shared, senior responsibility for employee engagement and well being – it is often a leading indicator for customer satisfaction.
  2. Assess employee engagement – we do this via surveys and social platforms, it doesn’t need to be expensive.
  3. Actively identify and resolve engagement issues – this frequently comes down to better communication.

What one thing can you do today to improve your workplace?