Tag Archives: employee engagement

Diverse Teams Analyze Problems More Effectively

When people anticipate working with people similar to themselves, they process information less effectively than when they anticipate collaborating with diverse co-workers.

Denise Lewin Loyd

Denise Lewin Loyd

Volunteers completed a survey about their political attitudes, read a murder mystery, determined the perpetrator, and rated their confidence in their conclusion in a study designed by MIT’s Denise Lewin Loyd, Cynthia S. Wang of Oklahoma State University, Columbia’s Katherine Phillips  and Robert Lount Jr. of Ohio State University.

Participants then wrote a statement about their conclusions before meeting another volunteer who had a different conclusion about the perpetrator to solve the case.

Cynthia Wang

Cynthia Wang

They learned the other person’s political affiliation and opinion about the murder and wrote their statements but were told the experiment was over, without meeting the other person.

Loyd’s team analyzed these preparation statements to determine “elaboration,” a measure of analysis complexity and depth, when people anticipated working with others who have different attitudes.

Katherine Phillips

Katherine Phillips

People who said they were members of any political party wrote less-detailed statements when they anticipated meeting with someone affiliated with the same political party.
In contrast, participants wrote more detailed statements when they anticipated meeting someone of a different political orientation.

Volunteers prepared less carefully when they anticipated working with someone who shared their views.
In contrast, when they expected to work with someone holding different views, they applied greater critical thinking to their problem analyses.

Robert B Lount Jr

Robert B Lount Jr

Some volunteers were instructed before preparing their written case analysis that developing a positive interpersonal relationship with the other person would increase solution accuracy.

Other participants learned that “concentrating on the task rather than the interpersonal relationship was most important way to have a productive meeting.”

People primed to focus on their interpersonal relations wrote less detailed preparation statements, suggesting that analytic rigor was sacrificed for interpersonal harmony.
In addition, when people were primed to focus on the task, they produced more thoroughly considered solutions.

When volunteers actually met to solve the case after writing their statements,
partners with the most accurate solutions came to the meeting with most detailed case analyses.

People in homogeneous groups may prepare less completely if they focus on cultivating interpersonal harmony and avoiding conflict.
In contrast, diverse groups may not attempt to form close social relationships, so are more able to focus on task analysis and solutions.
Diverse teams, then, provide multiple perspectives and greater focus on shared work tasks.

Ron Elsdon

Ron Elsdon

However, other researchers advocate workplace affiliation as a way to engage and retain employees.
Ron Elsdon, formerly of Cambridge University and Air Liquide America, suggested that workplace affiliation leads to organizational value creation, and Gallup’s Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argued that “having a best friend at work” is both important for employee engagement and “one of the most controversial of the 12 traits of highly productive workgroups.”

Marcus Buckingham

Marcus Buckingham

Social relationships among similar people at work may feel good, but may not lead to the most effective or innovative problem analysis.

-*To what extent have you observed homogeneous work groups focusing on maintaining harmony at the expense of rigorous task analysis?

Curt Coffman

Curt Coffman

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Fewer US Employees Have Workplace Friendships Compared with Other Countries

Workplace friendships positively affect task performance, yet Americans claim fewer friendships at work than employees in other countries.
The result could be competitive disadvantage for U.S. companies in world markets.

Karen Jehn

Karen Jehn

Teams composed of friends outperformed acquaintance groups in decision making and effort tasks, reported University of Melbourne’s Karen A. Jehn and Priti Pradhan Shah of University of Minnesota.

Likewise, workplace friendships and coworker support were associated with greater performance effectiveness in a meta-analytic study of more than 160 groups of nearly 78,000 employees by Penn State’s Dan S. Chiaburu and David A. Harrison of University of Texas.

Even employees’ perceptions of workplace friendship opportunities directly affected job involvement and job satisfaction.

Christine M. Riordan

Christine M. Riordan

These perceptions also indirectly affected organizational commitment and turnover intent among more than 170 employees in a small electric utility, reported Adelphi University’s Christine M. Riordan and Rodger W. Griffith of Ohio University.

Olenka Kacperczyk

Olenka Kacperczyk

However, fewer than one-third of Americans reported having a close friend at work, one indicator of employee engagement according to The Gallup Organization.
More importantly, workplace friendships have significantly declined over the past 3 decades in the U.S, but continue to be strong social connections in Polish and Indian organizations, found MIT’s Olenka Kacperczyk with Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, and  Wayne E. Baker of University of Michigan.

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes

They conducted surveys across the U.S., Poland, and India and determined that less than one-third of Americans reported inviting their closest colleagues to their homes, compared with two-thirds of Polish participants and nearly three-quarters Indian employees.
Even more dramatic is the discrepancy between groups for spending longer off-work time with workplace friends:  Just under half of Indian survey volunteers reported going on vacation with closest co-workers, whereas one-quarter of Polish workers and only 6% of Americans said they shared a holiday with colleagues.

Richard Nisbett

Richard Nisbett

Americans were also significantly less concerned with social interactions during work tasks, compared with Mexican and Mexican-American participants, found University of Southern California’s Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks with Richard E. Nisbett and Oscar Ybarra of University of Michigan.

Oscar Ybarra

Oscar Ybarra

After volunteers from each cultural background watched a four-minute video of two people working together, Mexicans and Mexican Americans more accurately recalled social and emotional group content.
Mexicans and Mexican Americans also preferred workgroups with a strong interpersonal orientation, and opined that group work performance could be improved by focusing on socio-emotional elements.

This focus on socio-emotional performance more greatly influenced group task success than the group’s ethnic composition, again suggesting that Americans’ trend toward social disengagement could undermine their productivity.

Robert D. Putnam

Robert D. Putnam

Continuing disengagement from American co-workers was described as ‘bowling alone’ by Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam, who contrasted current social disconnection with previous cohesiveness in after-hours U.S. company bowling leagues.

Adam Grant

Adam Grant

One explanation for national differences is that in the U.S., long-term employment is less secure than in countries with labor protection statues.
As a result, people can’t expect to stay indefinitely in one role, so remain detached to prepare for voluntary or involuntary job changes.
In fact, Wharton’s Adam Grant argued that “We view co-workers as transitory ties, greeting them with arms-length civility while reserving real camaraderie for outside work.”

Some observers attribute interpersonal disengagement to newer models of working, such as telecommuting and working remotely.

Ravi S. Gajendran

Ravi S. Gajendran

However, evidence from more than 45 studies of at least 12,000 employees that “telecommuting had no generally detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships,” particularly when people came to an office at least half the time, according to University of Illinois’s Ravi S. Gajendran and David A. Harrison of University of Texas.

Even if workplace relationships don’t become friendships, brief encounters can be high-quality connections characterized by respect, trust and mutual engagement.

Jane Dutton

Jane Dutton

These interactions energize both parties, posited University of Michigan’s Jane E. Dutton, and may address potential decreases in employee engagement and collaborative productivity.

-*To what extent do you have strong workplace friendships?
-*How have you seen workplace friendships affect work quality and productivity

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Leadership Roles Reduce – Rather than Increase – Perceived Stress

Animal studies suggest that high status roles are associated with lower stress levels, but fewer human studies that show a causal connection between status and health.

Hannah Kuper

Hannah Kuper

Geoffrey Rose

Geoffrey Rose

The longitudinal Whitehall Studies of British Civil servants suggest that lower status individuals had higher stress and poorer health outcomes that higher status workers, according to Geoffrey Rose of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University College London’s  Hannah Kuper and Michael Marmot.

Columbia University’s Modupe Akinola collaborated with Wendy Berry Mendes of the University of California, San Francisco, to re-examine the relationship between organizational status and health outcomes.

Michael Marmot

Michael Marmot

Akinola and Mendes asked police officers to rate their status relative to their colleagues and to other people in the United States.
Then, each volunteer participated in a stressful role-play used by many police departments to help decide which officers should get a promotion.

In this scenario, the officer was asked to placate a disgruntled citizen, played by an actor, who claimed that another officer had verbally and physically abused him.

Modupe Akinola

Modupe Akinola

Researchers measured each heart rates, blood circulation, and testosterone levels as measures of “thriving” stress response or “adaptive” stress response to the role-play.

Officers’ perceptions of their social status were significantly associated with their style of stress response.
Those with higher self-perceived status were more likely to have an adaptive stress response.

Wendy Berry Mendes

Wendy Berry Mendes

In a related study, Akinola and Mendes placed civilian volunteers in high-status or low-status roles to play a complicated, fast-paced video game with a partner.
The researchers again measured participants’ cardiovascular responses and testosterone levels during the task.
Findings with civilians mirrored those with police officers:  Participants placed in the higher-status leader role had more adaptive hormonal and cardiovascular reactions during the high-pressure task.

Those assigned higher status leader roles:

  • Performed more quickly and accurately than supporters
  • Allocated more resources to their partners
  • Expressed more positive perceptions of partners.

Opposite trends prevails for those in lower-status supporter roles:   They had less adaptive responses to the stressful task, did not perform as well on the task, and evaluated the leader more negatively.

Akinola and Mendes suggest that managers may be able to mitigate these negative effects of followership by suggesting paths to workplace advancement.

However, some individual contributors may be more interested in flexible work practices, salary, and time off, than career advancement.
Managers may foster greater employee engagement by tailoring rewards and recognitions to individual priorities.

-*How are role status and stress levels related in your work environment?

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Productivity and Work Motivation Affected by Small Gestures – Meaning, Challenge, Mastery, Ownership

Small gestures and verbalizations by managers and organizations can have a large impact on employee productivity, motivation, engagement, and retention – for better or worse.

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely’s research at Duke University showed the small changes in task design dramatically increase or diminish persistence, satisfaction, and commitment to tasks.

The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done, scanning it and saying ‘uh huh,’ [you] dramatically improve people’s motivations…. The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes. …,” according to Ariely.

Ariely’s lab experiments found that volunteers valued and liked their work product more when they worked hard and managed obstacles to produce it.
In addition, most people believed, often inaccurately, that other observers shared their positive view of their work product,

His research concluded that people seek meaning, challenge, and ownership in their work, and that these elements can increase work motivation and persistence.

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl

Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankel articulated this existential perspective in his examination of the critical role that meaning played in the enabling survivors of concentration camp prisoners in Man’s Search for Meaning.

In the less extreme circumstances of the workplace, finding and assigning meaning to work efforts enables people to persist in complex tasks to achieve satisfaction in mastering challenges.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter concurred that both meaning and mastery are productivity drivers, and to these she added a social dimension, membership, and a distant runner-up, money.

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg

In contrast, one of the early though leaders in business management, psychologist Frederick Herzberg, developed a classic formulation of motivational factors contrasted with “hygiene factors.”

Frederick Herzberg - Motivation-Hygiene factorsHis two-factor theory of motivation did not include meaning or money as driving job satisfaction or productivity.

Shawn Achor, formerly of Harvard, argues that happiness is the most important work productivity lever.

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

To support his contention, he cited research findings that happy workforces increase an organization’s sales by 37 percent, productivity by 31 percent and accuracy on tasks by 19 percent.

Whether you work for mainly for meaning, money, or other motivations, you may agree that an ideal workplace and manager would foster all of these contributors to employee engagement and productivity.

-*What is the most important work motivator for you?
-*How have you seen managers increase employee engagement and performance through words and actions?

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ROI of Effective Managers

Dilbert and Pointy-Haired Boss

Dilbert and Pointy-Haired Boss

Inept managers cause stress, cynical posting of Dilbert cartoons, and foment incredulous recounting of unparalleled cluelessness.
However, the all-too-rare effective manager delivers a creditable Return on Investment.

Edward Lazear

Edward Lazear

Stanford’s Edward Lazear and Kathryn Shaw collaborated with Christopher Stanton, now of of University of Utah to study the impact of nearly 2000 supervisors on more than 23,000 employees’ output productivity in a large  services firm.

Kathryn Shaw

Kathryn Shaw

They found that although there is substantial variation in managerial quality, as measured by their effect on worker productivity, the skillful managers in this workplace improved productivity by 10 percent.

Christopher Stanton

Christopher Stanton

Lazear, Shaw and Stanton demonstrated that replacing managers rated in the lower 10% of boss quality by employee output with managers in the upper 10%, the resulting increase in team total output is about the same amount as adding one worker to a nine member team.

In addition, effective managers are associated with increased productivity among both top-rated workers and the lowest-performing workers, with greater performance increases among the firm‘s top performers.

The researchers noted that employees’ peers had negligible impact on productivity measures, so they concluded that productivity increases are significantly influenced by managerial behaviors.

These findings point to the importance of hiring skilled managers and improving or removing unskilled managers to drive productivity and associated profit.

As a result, pre-employment assessment and managerial training industries are required to demonstrate efficacy in selecting already-skilled managers, and transforming less-skilled managers into top performing supervisors.

Some argue that developing managerial skill is a long-term behavior change because many of the interpersonal behaviors of effective managers have long-standing characterological roots.

For example, Lazear reported that the best managers in this large sample demonstrated humility and a sense of humor in their efforts to teach and motivate employees.
These attitudes develop over years, and may not be amenable to short-term training interventions.

Randy Hodson

Randy Hodson

Randy Hodson of Ohio State University conducted an ethnographic study of “worker citizenship behavior”, including level of work effort, absenteeism, and employee engagement.

He found “manager citizenship behavior” has the greatest impact on employee engagement, work effort, and employee’s related productivity.
These management behaviors include:

  • Leadership practices
  • Communication style
  • Commitment to worker job security
  • Providing appropriate work supplies and tools to achieve workers’ output requirements
  • Absence of “management abuse.”

Managers who respected worker rights and maintained an effective, productive environment for workers  had workers who invested more efforts in work and achieved greater productivity, besides having a better relationship with each other and with bosses.

Watson Wyatt TowersWatson Wyatt’s WorkUSA 2009 survey of 13,000 full-time U.S. workers across all job levels and in all major industries that organizations with highly engaged employees had:

The report found waning employee engagement over job tenure:  Employee engagement is highest in the first six months on the job, and is more than 11 percent higher during that “honeymoon period” than for longer-tenure employees.
Employee engagement drops nine percent after the first six months on the job, and continues to decline.

Watson Wyatt’s regression analysis of these data found that this 11% decline in employee engagement has the same expected impact on employee productivity as a decline of assets per employee of nearly 0.6 percent.

To offset the impact on productivity, a typical firm would need to invest more than $2,700 per employee.

A similar regression analysis controlled for industry, firm size and capital intensity and estimated that 11% decline in engagement is associated with a 1.7 percent reduction in market value.
For the typical S&P 500 firm, this decreased expected market value could be $216 million, suggesting that managerial behavior is a critical determinant of productivity and ultimate market value.

The challenge for top management is to evaluate sustained improvement in managerial behavior attributable to managerial learning and development interventions, to ensure Return on Investment for managerial development.

-*What managerial attitudes and behaviors have you seen increase employee productivity?

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Will the ROWE Revolution Reach Yahoo? Results-Only Work Environments, Productivity, and Employee Engagement

Cali Ressler-Jody Thompson

Cali Ressler-Jody Thompson

Why Work SucksJody Thompson and Cali Ressler proposed compensating employees based on outputs, rather than elapsed time, in a “Results-Only Work Environments (ROWE)” policy.

This management strategy evaluated “performance, not presence” practices at Best Buy and has been implemented at another large retailer, Gap.
Is this is a return to a “piece-work” approach of decades ago?
Or is it a performance management practice that emphasizes achieving targeted results?

Why Managing SucksROWE  is being considered at such tech giants as Cisco Systems, in direct contrast to Yahoo’s recent call for employees to be present in offices.
The underlying goal of Yahoo’s “presentism” policy may be to increase innovative performance outputs, although the explanation provided to employees emphasized presence as a prerequisite for effective collaboration.

Widespread negative reaction to Yahoo’s on-site work policy, based on complaints that the policy:

  • Conveys lack of trust in employees
  • Undermines opportunities to manage complex work-life responsibilities
  • Places emphasis on “face time” rather than results
  • Leads to employee resentment and disengagement.
Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly

In contrast, University of Minnesota sociologists Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen with University of Delaware’s Eric Tranby documented the positive impact of ROWE practices in their survey of more than 600 Best Buy employees before and after the program was implemented.

Phyllis Moen

Phyllis Moen

The researchers found turnover was reduced by 45 percent after they controlled for gender, job level, organizational tenure, job satisfaction, income adequacy, job security and turnover intentions.

Participants reported reduced stress and improved work-home interfaces by increasing employees’ schedule control, and reduced the “opting out” of the workforce due to personal commitments for both men and women.

Eric Tranby

Eric Tranby

Kelly, Moen, and Tranby opine that ROWE “moves us away from the “time cages” developed around the work day…ROWE challenges these taken-for-granted clockworks…our mantra is ‘change the workplace, not the worker’.

Rachelle Hill, also of University of Minnesota collaborated with Moen and Kelly in a related study that documented ROWE moderated turnover effects of negative home-to-work spillover, personal troubles, and physical symptoms.

-*What impacts – positive and negative – have you seen in “Performance, not Presence” workplace policies like ROWE?

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Companion Animals in the Workplace

Technology companies like Autodesk, Google, and Amazon made news when they permitted employees to bring companion dogs to work.Dog at work

This policy was viewed as an employee benefit or “perk”, but a recent study published in International Journal of Workplace Health Management indicates that bringing a companion dog to work can lower stress levels, increase productivity and make work more satisfying.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health conclude that companion animals can lower individuals’ cholesterol, trigylcerides, blood pressure, heart rates,  weight, stress, risk of heart attack, social isolation, inactivity, and overall healthcare costs, all of which benefit organization’s operational costs.

National Institute of Health

Randolph Barker and collaborators from Virginia Commonwealth University examined a service-manufacturing-retail company in North Carolina with 550 employees and between 20 – 30 companion dogs.

Randolph Barker

Randolph Barker

Researchers measured 76 employees’ stress levels via surveys of attitudes toward animals in general and in the workplace.
Equal numbers of employees perceived dogs’ presence as increasing or decreasing work productivity.

Employees’ perceived stress levels, measured by cortisol in saliva samples, were significantly lower and job satisfaction was higher on days when dogs were present at work.

Companion dogs at work appeared to boost interpersonal communication, organizational engagement, and morale when employees who did not own dogs asking dog owners to interact with dogs or take them for a walk.

Considerable research around the globe suggests that the stress-reducing effect of companion dogs is tied to an increase in oxytocin when humans and dogs interact.

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg of Uppsala University and author of The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, And Healing, reported that women and their dogs experienced similar increases in oxytocin levels after ten minutes of friendly contact, and women’s oxytocin response was significantly correlated to the quality of the bond they reported in a survey taken prior to the interacting with their dogs.

The Oxytocin Factor

Likewise, JS Odendaal and RS Meintjes, then of Pretoria Technikon, showed that friendly contact between dogs and humans release oxytocin in both and Miho Nagasawa‘s team  at Azabu University found that amount of oxytocin among dog owners increased with the amount of time they shared eye contact with their dogs.

Suzanne C. Miller’s research group showed that oxytocin increased among women but not men after greeting their companion dog when returning home from work.

Christopher Honts

Christopher Honts

Christopher Honts and Matthew Christensen of Central Michigan University extended findings on stress reduction to evaluate trust, team cohesion and intimacy among teams collaborating on tasks when a well-trained, hypoallergenic dog was present.
During a collaborative creative thinking exercise, participants rated teammates higher on trust and teamwork than those without a dog.

Teams with a dog during the prisoner’s dilemma measure of trust and collaboration were 30% less likely to betray teammates accused of being co-conspirators in a hypothetical crime scenario.

Hiroshi Nittono

Hiroshi Nittono

Hiroshi Nittono and team at Hiroshima University demonstrated improved performance on problem-solving, attention, perceptual discrimination, and motor performance tasks after volunteers viewing images of baby animals compare with adult animals or food, reported in Public Library of Science .

Despite evidence that companion animals in the workplace reduce stress, increase perceptual and problem-solving capabilities and health indicators, barriers include:

  • Cultural objections to dogs and other animals
  • Allergies to companion animals
  • Animals without proper obedience and social skills training for the workplace

-*What do you think about potential financial and morale benefits of companions animals in the workplace?

Gromit

Gromit

<-Will this

Miss Sarah's Guide

Miss Fido Manners

be replaced with this? <—————>

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