Have you ever noticed that individuals are more innovative, energetic, stimulating, and engaging than most corporations? That is because the systems in place at most companies are not conducive to developing human potential.
Let’s take a closer look at one such system: companies spend considerable amounts of money surveying their employees through some unbiased third-party services to find out about job satisfaction. Yet, this may not be the best measurement to use. To date, only weak evidence relates job satisfaction to work productivity while much stronger evidence shows a positive correlation between psychological well-being and work performance. To cite a few:
- In a two-year longitudinal study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science in July 2002, it was found that while there was no clear correlation between job satisfaction and productivity, psychological well-being did predict job performance.
- Ed Diener’s research shows that workers who report higher psychological well-being also get higher performance reviews.
- Empirical studies conducted by Martin Seligman et al show that using our signature strengths increases psychological well-being. Further studies conducted at Gallup also demonstrate that using our strengths at work increases engagement and results, thus positively correlating the two. As Marcus Buckingham puts it, “our strengths are what Mother Nature gave us to make us competitive and successful.”
- In an article titled Toughness published in the Handbook of Positive Psychology, authors Richard Dienstbier and Lisa Pytlik Zilling explain that toughening interventions – such as aerobic exercise – improve the central nervous system’s resistance to depletion under stress. Toughness corresponds positively to performance in challenging tasks, enhanced learning abilities, and positive physical and psychological health – so performance and psychological health are again related.
- Earlier this week, during an International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) conference call, Dr. Ruut Veenhoven cited reliable experimental evidence that happiness activates people and makes them more creative and independent. Whether these advantages translate into work results depends on whether employees use creativity and independence to benefit their boss or not. In other words, a good employer is more likely to stimulate a productive staff member.
For employees to meet today’s performance challenges, they must be treated as human beings; not just as workers. I am not suggesting here that staff members should be pampered everyday of the week, but I am suggesting that managers need to cultivate stamina – that includes appropriate concern for employees’ minds, bodies, and emotions.
This is not fluffy stuff. This is The Future of Management, and the direction about 75% of the largest US companies have already headed. So ask yourself: is your company fit for developing human potential? Maybe it’s time to let go of the narrow job satisfaction approach and integrate psychological well-being measurements in your enterprise.
Hamel, G. & Breen, B. (2007). The Future of Management. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Buckingham, M (2007). Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. NY: Free Press.
Diener, E. (2008). Conference call for the International Positive Psychology Association.
Dienstbier, R. & Pytlik Zillig, L.M. (2005). Toughness. In Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 515-527). New York: Oxford University Press.
Rath, T. (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: Gallup Press.
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.
Veenhoven, R. (2008). Conference call for the International Positive Psychology Association.
Wright, T.A., Cropanzano, R. Denney, P.J. & Moline, G.L. (2002). When a Happy Worker is a Productive Worker: A Preliminary Examination of Three Models. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science.