The most important investment any business can make is in the mental capital and wellbeing of the people who work there.
In challenging economic times, with an increasingly noisy marketplace and rapid globalization, our line of sight is easily moved towards cutting costs, rationalising business procedures (and staff) and investing in new technology to keep that competitive edge.
It's also a critical time to be investing in people — your existing mental capital — to enable them to work to their best, contribute more and build a solid foundation that is ready to move forward when the economic climate becomes more positive.
Much of the modern workplace malaise of disengagement, low morale, and high staff turnover can be attributed to poor organisational health. If your staff are worried about job security, exhausted from constantly doing ‘more with less’ (that lovely euphemism for doing more work with less interpersonal interaction or management), or not feeling valued for the work done, it's harder to maintain the energy, or motivation to do their work and do it well.
Hiring someone to do a particular job and then failing to provide the resources or environment to ensure they can deliver what is expected, is a huge waste of potential and bad for the bottom line.
Organisational health is about recognising what the real drivers of performance and productivity are. McKinsey reported in 2011 that organisational health is THE ultimate organisational advantage. Time and time again the brain science has revealed that remembering to treat people fairly and with respect goes a long way to establishing a workplace culture governed by kindness, one where people look out for each other and ensure every brain at work is operating to the level they know they are capable of.
Humanising the workplace starts here
Humans work to their best, together. Feeling part of a team, accepted for your strengths and unique talents, creates a sense of belonging. Our brains are wired for us to connect at a social level, while remaining mindful that anything new or different in our environment could be potentially dangerous.
A leader who keeps others feeling ‘safe’ promotes a sense of relatedness and trust, essential to any working relationship.
Call out the good
Acknowledging a job well done for the effort put into a project, or saying thank you for meeting a deadline, goes a lot further to promote future contribution than calling someone out for what they didn't get right. Reflecting and celebrating what has been done well lifts emotions, builds stress resistance and motivates us to work harder.
Provide life rafts that work
Treading water in a sea of uncertainty is unsustainable and exhausting. Providing full disclosure of relevant facts, as available, helps to allay fears, prevents infilling of the blanks with negative narrative, and keeps the prevailing mood more positive.
The observation of unfair behaviour is perceived as a massive threat by the brain triggering a strong sense of disgust. Being seen as firm and fair makes it easier to get potentially unpopular new policies accepted than if you've been seen to play favourites or condone cronyism.
Lead by example
Listen, invite dialogue and ask questions: "What could be done better here?" promotes relatedness and trust. If you are seen to value healthy eating, getting enough sleep and finishing work on time, this grants permission for others to follow suit. It shows you see your staff's emotional, physical and cognitive wellbeing as essential components to a high performance workplace culture.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr said: “No work is insignificant. All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
Organisational health remains a work in progress. How it evolves comes down to choosing to invest in people first. That's why developing operational excellence always starts with humanising the workplace.