Building people into organisational success
16 Mar 2018
Positive and inclusive workplace cultures are no longer considered ‘nice to have.’ For organisations wanting to improve performance they’re a necessity. Research has shown they produce happier, more productive workers, with benefits extending to the bottom line.
In 2016, when PwC analysed workplace wellbeing programs, it discovered for every dollar spent on them there was, on average, $2.30 in benefits for the organisation.
But programs aren’t the only way to get results. It turns out you can boost organisational performance by making connections with your workers.
Greg O’Meara of Ascend, a Melbourne-based consulting group, is an expert in the areas of organisational culture and high performance coaching. For him, the overarching theme for leaders is appreciation. He believes in the importance of appreciation for what people do, and for who they are.
“There’s an Italian psychologist called Roberto Assagioli who said, the deepest human need is to be seen and heard. I’ll often ask leaders, when you think of your people, to what degree would they say they are seen and heard? If it’s only about work, that’s the level of relationship you’ll have. If it’s about work and who the person is, you create a far deeper connection.”
In Greg’s experience, it’s that connection that leads to greater job satisfaction for workers and increased productivity.
“That’s when you get your discretionary effort. People feel part of something bigger than themselves. They’ll talk positively about the organisation. They’ll do much more.
“If you’re my boss,” Greg says, “and you know what I like and don’t like, my style, my fears potentially, I don’t have to hide that. That’s special. I’m not just a hired set of hands.”
This can have huge implications for employee retention, an issue many industries face. “When you feel known it’s non-replicable,” Greg says. “You can’t just go somewhere else and feel that. In fact, it’s hard to leave an organisation when you feel that.”
Workers should also be comfortable opening up at work. The whole person should be celebrated. “If I’m off centre because of something that’s happened outside work, I feel safe. I can say, guys, don't mind me, or I’m not feeling great, I’m going to have a quiet day. I don’t have to mask it.”
The opposite is important too, Greg says. “When something great’s going on in my life and I’m pumped up about it, I’ll talk about it at work. How great’s that when I get back to work on Monday and they ask, how did your weekend away go or how was the kid’s birthday?”
To get to know workers, Greg believes leaders should balance the time they spend discussing work matters with time spent finding out about their workers.
“A lot of people say, let’s do more social events. That can be good, people need the social event to change the conversation, but the other way to look at it is to ask, how do we have those conversations when we’re just at our desks in the morning. Go for a floor walk, go past someone who thinks you don’t even know their name and say, I heard you did a great job on that project. It takes a minute but that person will think about it for a long time.”
It can’t feel contrived though, and it must be genuine otherwise people become cynical. Greg advises against announcing anything or scheduling floor walk time. “I’ve heard people from organisations saying, ‘oh, here he comes, it must be 3 o’clock’. Find simple ways to go and appreciate them. Seek someone out to acknowledge their charity work, or the marathon they’ve just run, or whatever. That drives the connection.”
“The more leaders do this, by osmosis, by observation, workers will realise what’s actually valued and important. Once that begins to ingrain, it opens up a culture that will outperform any other culture.”
Greg O’Meara is a consultant, facilitator and executive coach working with organisations and industries in Australia and internationally. Specialising in culture transformation, change management, leadership and team development, he helps people achieve their personal and professional goals.
His clients include ANZ, Telstra, Coles, Australia Post, Elders, Transfield Services, Heinz, Austin Health, ME Bank, NSW Transport, Allianz, BHP Billiton, Yahoo!7, Wesfarmers, Victorian Government, Simplot, and CSIRO.