Archive for the ‘Employee Confidence’ Category
Scott Brooks and I recently published this article which we thought you would enjoy. Jeff
“You are going to have to help me with this people thing.” That was what the ex-McKinsey consultant turned CEO of a major Fortune company told me years ago. He was the nicest guy. He explained to me how he could handle all of the financials to run his company but this whole people thing, what motivated them, what concerned them, he just couldn’t get his arms around that. He was baffled. What to him seemed like simple business decisions, trim here, reorganize there, in order to fine tune his company’s financial performance resulted in all sorts of emotional morale issues. “Why didn’t people see the obvious?” He thought that there should be no emotions involved in financial business decisions, that if he did what was best for the company, to ensure its survival, that people should not mind (or at least not get emotional about) being moved around like pieces on a chess board, even if it meant losing their jobs. While this company had solid financial performance, it also had a fairly high degree of turnover, with some employees after a pretty short period of time feeling burned out and not being able to continue with the firm. Yet this company also had a high degree of employee commitment and employee loyalty. How was that possible?
I participated in a graduation recently. A group of MBA student’s to whom I taught a leadership class were graduating with their degrees in hand. It was extremely emotional in a positive way for the students, their families and friends that were present. The students were smiling from ear to ear and the parents were beaming. As each student came across the stage, amid the flashing of cameras, I rose shook their hands and congratulated them on their achievement. As each student passed me, I wondered “what direction will their lives now take?”
Sense of Direction. Having a clear sense of direction, a sense of mission regarding what the organization (an organization can be anything from a poker club to a nation state) is going to accomplish, and how people can personally and meaningfully contribute to that goal will affect one’s overall sense of well-being and happiness. It helps to increase a sense of purposefulness which in turn can greatly impact people’s sense of commitment and loyalty to the organization. Most people struggle with this, looking for a sense of direction and purposefulness for at least a portion of their lives, others struggle with this for most of their lives. For the newly-minted MBA’s, they are at an inflection point, where they will be examining the decisions they have made so far and will be reflecting on a host of choices they now have which will affect their own sense of direction and sense of purpose.
For an organization, clarity on this subject allows members to self-select, for if I don’t agree with the goals of the organization (stated or otherwise), or what the organization perceives as my role in helping it to achieve those goals, it is pretty clear, that if I can, I should leave. Over time, with a clear sense of direction (stated or otherwise), what an organization can achieve is a fairly tightly knit core of people who are extremely dedicated, ferociously loyal to helping the organization achieve its goals. And yes, there is a risk that too tightly knit of a group will put goal achievement and gain for this core above all else including societal or customer well-being, potentially bending or breaking various articulated operating standards, societal rules, regulations or laws. An inner core can arise, and as C.S. Lewis pointed out a long time ago, people will do almost anything to become part of the inner circle. As with everything there needs to be a sense of balance, swinging too far in any direction is generally not good for people, the organization or society at large.
Knowing where an organization is going, what it stands for and the values it will employ while getting there can be critical to actually getting there. Each person having a sense of direction and knowing how they can contribute to that direction is a fundamental building block for organizational performance and morale.
One aspect of sense of direction having a positive impact is movement, or the direction of the sense of direction. People tend to get frustrated with stagnation and get unhappy pretty quickly about what is perceived as a backward slide, even if that slide is relatively small and from a very high place or performance level. People notice and feel positive or negatively about the direction things are headed, oftentimes more than the absolute level of the measure suggests that they should.
For instance, as we have measured Employee Confidence over the years, what we see are increases and decreases in Employee Confidence on a national level that are related to the direction of a nation’s economy and not the absolute level of economic performance. Employee Confidence goes up if conditions (e.g. unemployment levels, GDP growth) are seen as improving and it declines if conditions are perceived as dropping, regardless of the absolute levels of those conditions. Employee Confidence can be very high in rapidly developing economies as people feel that conditions are improving and that their economy is on the rise, even if the absolute economic standards are pretty low. Likewise, Employee Confidence can be low in highly develop economies with high standards of living if economic performance is seen as in decline.
As humans, we tend to perceive events and make judgments on a relative basis and not on an absolute basis. What tends to becomes normal is relative to what we routinely experience. But every once in a while we are able change the standard dramatically when a critical mass of organizational members compares what they are experiencing to other extra-organizational standards.
Let me illustrate relative decision-making in a simple fashion. Say you needed a pair of shoes and had your eye on a pair that normally costs $300. You are prepared to spend $300 on those shoes. You open the Sunday paper and see that a store 40 minutes away across town has those same exact shoes that you have been thinking of purchasing for half-off or $150. Would you be motivated to drive across town to buy your shoes at half-price? Many people are inclined to do that. Now say you needed to purchase a new car. You are looking at a car that costs $27,900 at a new car dealer near your house. You are prepared to spend $27,900 on that new car by financing it with the bank and paying it off over 5 years. You open the Sunday paper and see that same exact car for $27,750 at a new car dealer 40 minutes away on the other side of town. Would you drive across town to buy that car? Many would say no. Yet in these two examples in each case the buyer would save $150 on the purchase price. You could use that $150 to purchase the same exact things, regardless of where the savings came from, 2-tickets to a Broadway show (partially obstructed view), or a hot dog at Yankee Stadium. Yet there is a tendency for people to be more willing to save $150 when it represents a larger portion of the purchase price, rather than when it represents a smaller percentage. We make relative and not absolute judgments on how worthwhile the savings are.
The same holds true at the organizational level. If organizational performance is seen as improving relative to where it currently is, employees tend to be more upbeat regardless of the absolute starting level of that performance and if it is perceived as in decline, employee spirits will also be in decline (even if you are still the best in your industry). So how could the CEO I mentioned lead a company that achieved high levels of employee commitment and loyalty, even as people were burning out? The answer is that it was an exciting place to be, they were cutting edge, an industry leader with rapidly rising levels of performance, beating the competition and with a clearly articulated vision of where the company was going.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: http://www.orgvitality.com
There is a tendency on the part of people to feel strongly about movement. Ever since we headed out of Africa to explore what lay over the horizon, we have been a species on the move. And in fairly short order after that original exodus, especially given the knowledge base and level of technology available, humans had made it to virtually every corner of this planet. We move, we explore, we seek. Even when we don’t know what we are seeking we seek, with an “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of rationale. That grass certainly looks greener over there doesn’t it? Traveling for work and the ability to explore foreign places is often viewed as a glamorous perk and is used as a hiring inducement by many organizations. We always have been and still are a species on the move, exploring not only our own planet but given our nature of itchy feet, constantly pushing the limits to explore realms that exist beyond those that are currently known. The urge to move, the desire for change, to travel, to explore is so strong among many of us that you have to wonder if it is somehow hardwired into our psyche, establishing itself out of a survival benefit.
Movement. Change. Renewal. These are enduring themes that get our attention. In my own work the theme and significance of change on the psychology of the worker and hence the organization is also evident. As I collected Employee Confidence data beginning in June of 2008, I found that the most confident employees on the planet were not from countries with the highest levels of economic prosperity, nor were the lowest levels found in countries with little prosperity. The most confident employees were to be found in countries that had the most positive movement in GDP growth, not the highest absolute level of GDP but those with the largest positive shift in GDP. Likewise countries with stagnant or falling levels of prosperity, signified by falling levels of GDP, were where the least confident employees were to be found. Similarly levels of employee confidence were more strongly related not to absolute unemployment levels on a state level, as a casual observer may expect, but were much more related to the changing level of unemployment. For instance, if the unemployment level in a state where to drop from one quarter to the next, the level of employee confidence turned higher, even if the absolute level of unemployment was still high, as things were seen as improving.
We often seem to base our assessments of various kinds of situations and organizations not based on absolutes, but on how the situation and the organizations are changing. Is it moving in the positive direction, getting better, is it stagnant or is the situation and organization in decline? People are drawn to organizations that seem to be in ascendency, and rapidly abandon even relatively highly performing organizations that are seen to be in decline. This appears to be true not only for employees of organizations but for its customers as well.
“Americans traditionally are much more interested in the direction the economy’s going than in the absolute level,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. “The absolute level can be not so good, unemployment can be relatively high, and incumbents can still get re-elected as long as things are moving in the right direction.” (NY Times 08/08/11).
My work seems to imply that the tendency described in the Times article is not limited to Americans but is a phenomena based on us being human, and the way humans respond to and assess situations and hence applies globally.
From an organizational perspective this finding underscores the need for organizations to constantly improve, to raise the bar of performance, both in terms of the products and services they will offer and how its employees view the organization. Simply maximizing your current performance, having the best product or service out there, or being an attractive employer is just not good enough, but rather a longer-term evolutionary path of constant improvement, building future organizational potential is required for long-term organizational health. The theme of Maximizing Current Performance while at the same time Building Future Potential is at the heart of OrgVitality’s organizational performance model and encompasses a body of research in the field of organizational development called ambidexterity.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Have human ethical standards been fundamentally the same over the millennia?
“What would Zeus do?” Given the ethical abuses that we constantly read about in the news and now about the news, I have been thinking quite a bit about ethics and whether changing ethical standards have an impact on our societies and organizations. As you consider the relative constancy of ethical standards over time there are only two possibilities. One is that human ethical standards are constant and the behaviors that we witness which implies differing ethics over time are really an expression of changing standards, driven by societal levels of economic well-being, sophistication or technology as humans search for what the ancient Greeks felt was a major driver of human behavior, called eudaimonia or happiness. Or second, the possibility those fundamental ethical standards do indeed shift over time.
I would argue that at any moment of time, were you to objectively measure the level of ethical behavior shown by every individual person on the planet, that you would find a normal distribution of ethical behavior, with some behaving with the highest level of ethics (by my standards of course), others would be considered on the edge and still others would be behaving in quite an unethical manner. Further, I would argue that the distribution would be broad enough that you would find more variation in ethical behavior among people within any period of time than you would find across time periods. Those people who operate significantly below the mean or the norm, we call abnormal or criminal and attempt to stop their behavior. Now if we have a normal distribution that means that ½ of the human population is below the mean, so obviously we don’t lock away ½ of the human race, but what we do is to determine heuristically where to draw the cut score. At some point, maybe one standard deviation below the mean or perhaps two, we say that the behavior is sufficiently abnormal to be considered criminal and lock those people away or send them for treatment.
Historically, the Romans had the Coliseum in Rome and 200 other similar venues elsewhere, whose contests resulted in the deaths of millions of animals and the slaughter of uncounted numbers of people. Most of us today would find the killing of people for sport abhorrent, most but not all. But today we do have sporting events held in venues similar to a coliseum aimed at like outcomes, producing a winner and loser and entertaining the masses (or more cynically, providing an outlet for aggression not aimed at the powers that be). On the face of it they seem quite different, for instance after a baseball game rarely do you see the losing team impaled on stakes or fed to the lions. But underneath it all, are the two events playing to fundamentally the same principles in the human psyche, the need for competition, for a winner and loser to emerge, and the need to root for one’s “champion”? Is the popularity of some TV shows really due to nothing more than their nature as virtual Roman Coliseums, allowing us to peer into how people perform under stressful circumstance? Are some news shows that allow us to track crime investigations or court trials similar to the struggle for survival that the Romans so enjoyed viewing? (The normal distribution argument would imply that some Romans enjoyed the blood sport while others tolerated it and others still were perhaps appalled by it. Similarly today some are glued to their sets watching championship wrestling or reality TV shows, while others are not.)
There are layers upon layers to think through as this point is considered. Certainly ethical theories and the corresponding theories of justice have changed and have evolved over time, but the question I am posing is more fundamental. “Have humans changed?” Has our fundamental psychology changed over the last few thousand years causing our ethical standards to shift? Or are we still the same humans, psychologically, that strode the earth during Golden age of Greece, the epochs of the Pharaohs, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the age of Confucius or of the Buddha, or when the 10 Commandments first appeared?
I have to admit to some pre-determined bias, for when I look at the so-called “generational” differences that are supposed to exist among worker attitudes, regardless of what you read in the lay press, I can find no evidence in the data to support the notion that what the various generations want out of the world of work is different on a fundamental level. The differences that do exist are primarily driven by differing economic opportunity, life stage and technology rather than differences in human psychology. For instance you would be very hard pressed to find a worker who did not want to be treated with respect and dignity, have a sense of accomplishment or a sense of fairness of treatment and equity of any generation in any area of the world. And the workers today around the world who accept working conditions that you and I would find unacceptable do so out of economic necessity and for no other reason.
You may consider some ancient practices barbaric, but they were no worse than what people perpetrated on their fellows a mere 70 years ago during WWII. And today things are little better, with an estimated 12.5 million humans living in slavery with 2.5 million of those being bought and sold like cattle (Dahan 2011). Yet we could also point to progress that has been made in the USA over the last few decades with the abandonment of laws that created second class citizen status for many of our fellow humans, and the passage of laws giving equal rights to others.
Yet positively, sports like baseball can also have a helpful effect in bringing together people who can find common cause in their efforts, including those that go beyond the sport itself. In tsunami ravaged sections of Japan, baseball is providing an aura of normalcy at some schools allowing people to see beyond the day-to-day devastation they are dealing with (New York Times 7/10/11). So I want to be careful and not paint with too broad a brush in my statements about various activities.
Here is a statement for which I have no evidence, since I did not measure the attitude nor have I been able to find any organization or person who did, but never-the-less I would argue is accurate: “Slaves were never in favor of slavery”. Those who got the short end of the stick due to the unethical behavior of others were never pleased with their lot and why should they be? Humans have had an uncanny knack, an ability to take advantage of other humans for as long as we have been walking this planet. At the same time others give unselfishly of themselves to benefit the broader society of which they are part.
I recently got back from a trip to Costa Rica (go if you ever have an opportunity), and during the trip we stayed for a few days in a town of about 1500 people called Tortuguero. We went to this location which is accessible only by boat or plane, to see the Green Sea Turtle lay its eggs, during the start of the annual mating season. You need to have a permit to go onto the beach where the turtles aggregate and a registered guide needs to take you to make sure no damage is done to the turtles or their nests. Our guide happened to be a fellow named Fernando, who went by Don. It was truly an honor to spend a few days with him and to learn from him about the wild life and plants in the area. Don and I had several conversations over the course of a few days about how the town of Tortuguero is structured socially and politically. Tortuguero’s original residents were escaped slaves from Caribbean islands and from a slaving ship that had sunk. They chose to make a life, however hard, rather than return to slavery, they were searching for eudaimonia. Remember, “Slaves were never in favor of slavery”.
Interestingly, Tortuguero has no local government. There is a provincial police station manned by federal police, but there is no mayor, no elected officials, no one in authority to get things done. Over the last few years though cement walkways have begun to replace dirt paths in town, a major recycling facility has been built, in line with the theme of Tortuguero being an eco-vacation location and importantly creating jobs for residents, potable running water has been supplied to each house and other improvements have been made.
How do these things get done? Don indicated that a group of about 7 citizens who simply want to make things better get together regularly and figure out how to accomplish them. I asked if they were elected, but he said they were volunteers. My feeling is that they were volunteers that the other residents of the town greatly respected and willingly followed their lead in decision making, making life better for all. These volunteers in my opinion are operating with a great deal of ethical integrity attempting to improve life for all 1500 residents of the town (they are also likely acting with self-interest). And if anyone is listening, according to Don, what the town really needs next is a bank. A bank would give the residents a place to safely put their money, it would provide small businesses a place to borrow for startup costs, and it would make the town feel more substantial. Don indicated that a bank would give residents more confidence in the future of the town, with all of the corresponding benefits and is sorely needed.
No matter how much we may wish it, ethical issues and challenges, among business leaders, politicians, and others are not going to go away any time soon. Humans are not about to achieve some kind of breakthrough in our evolutionary pathway that will fundamentally change our behavior. But there are a large number of people, and I want to positively think, an increasingly larger number of people who are willing to do the right thing, not giving into the fears of our baser emotions in order to make life better for all as we each find our own personal form of eudaimonia.
Dahan, Y., Lerner, H., Milman-Sivan, F., 2011, Global Justice, Labor Standards and Responsibility, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 12, 117-142.
Hursthouse, R, “Virtue Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2010/entries/ethics-virtue/.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
There is an old story from Eastern Europe about a ruler who gathers his advisors around him. A discussion ensued about a dramatic rise in madness among those in the population who consumed grain from the recent harvest. In the manner of many politicians or those with vested interests, the advisors told the ruler that they must put aside enough grain from pervious harvest so that they could preserve their own sanity while those around them went mad. The ruler objected, and using logic possible only among those with the inbred genes of hereditary rulers, stated that since they could not put aside enough grain for everyone, that they too must eat the fungus infected grain, for if everyone else was mad, acting similarly, those others will think us mad if we are different. We must be as mad as everyone else, acting like everyone else, believing in what they believe in order to be considered normal and blend in, to consolidate and not lose our positions of power.
Normal. It is very relative and time specific. Tattoos were once what happened to drunken sailors, piercings were limited to the earlobes of women, listening to rock and roll was going to send you to hell, voyeurism was a mental illness and not promoted on prime-time TV, books were printed on paper and much earlier reading those newfangled books called novels was viewed as immersing oneself in dangerous fantasy worlds, and each and every younger generation has been an enigma to the previous. The only thing certain about what is normal is that it is a moving target and subject to change over time. Trying to hold back the floodgates of change is and should be an exercise in futility. Ideologues, those who support a specific ideology frozen in some past moment, yearning to go back to the way things were are not only tilting at windmills, but are often at the root of much violent, disruptive and nonproductive behavior. However, what one person views as a positive shift in the value set that describes normal, another will view as negative. What is certain is that humanity is not a monolithic entity in our values and beliefs, and whatever “system” is put into place that governs us must be one that allows for those differences to enhance the mosaic of what constitutes humanity.
Are organizations any different? Do myths of what is normal exist within companies? There is a technique I like to use when analyzing an organization’s data. For want of a better name we call it a 9-box. The 9-box takes two questions from an organizational assessment and lays out the all possible responses to each, one along the x-axis and one along the y forming a 3×3 matrix. The 9 cells that are then created contain those responses from people who responded one of 9 different ways to the 2 questions. They could have been favorable on both questions, in which case they would be in the upper left box, they could have been negative on both questions, in which case they would be in the lower right hand box. All the other possible combinations are filled in (Favorable:Neutral, Neutral:Neutral, Negative:Neutral, etc.). Once the matrix has been completed we examine the outcome measure of interest for each cell. How, for instance, do the Favorable:Favorable people fare on turnover or measures of quality, customer satisfaction etc. We contrast that positive cell against the other cells within the matrix. And then it gets interesting.
We examine the demographic characteristic of the employees within the Positive:Positive cell and compare it against those in the other cells. In every single case where I have done this analysis organizational beliefs are exploded and shown to be myths. For instance it may be thought that the most positive employees within the organization would be the managers and the least positive would be the production workers. But when you examine the demographic breakdowns you typically find very similar percentages of employee types in each of the cells. It is not simply that employees are of different types that accounts for perceptual differences and performance differences within organizations, rather it is how each employee as an individual views their treatment, and that is independent of position and most of the common demographics tracked within organizations.
You see there is a bit of a conundrum at work. While we are free to have different beliefs and values we are all still human and each of us have most of the same hopes and desires as any of our fellow humans. We may all have different fingerprints, but we all have fingerprints. Those issues that arise within organizations that create the new normal, the current conditions in which everyone must function, affect all within the organization and whether they view their own situation in a positive or negative light is driven by a myriad of factors that impinge on them in their organizational existence. Some of those factors are driven by the competence, tone and actions created at the top of the organization, others are more career and personally oriented, others depend on perceptions of how the organization is positioned competitively. In sum, the perceptions of both the organization’s future and one’s personal future matter in determining the attitude and performance of employees of all types.
One thing is certain. You can’t get maximal performance out of all of the employees of an organization by hanging onto myths and false beliefs that emphasize non-existent differences while at the same time ignoring those issues that actually matter.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
The arrow of time in our universe is unidirectional, moving from the past, to the present and forward into the future. No matter how much we might desire to freeze moments that are precious to us, capturing forever their special meanings, they slip through our fingers as time marches on oblivious, neither slowing, standing still, nor retreating from its own journey. Though we sometimes seem to view ourselves as disconnected observers of time, remembering past and projecting or modifying the future from some place outside of the flow, we live within the time flow and are firmly subject to it.
One thing that is certain, as time moves forward things change. Things change for people as well as for organizations, inexorably. And just like you cannot control the flow of time in which we reside, you cannot slow down, stop or reverse change from happening. But both individuals and organizations can do things that will help them cope with change and to deal with, mitigate and even use its effects to personal and organizational advantage.
One key to dealing with the effects of change is to become more resilient, on an individual level and an organizational level. How does a child raised in poverty in the Bronx rise to become a Supreme Court judge, or a child from humble roots in Ohio become the Speaker of the House, or a child raised by a teen mom, in an unstable, unpredictable environment, rise to become President of the United States? These were not children of privilege, these were children of resilience. Look at the innumerable children of immigrants, living and growing up in marginal conditions, who over the years became the engines of our economic prosperity, the pillars of our educational institutions, the creative geniuses behind our innovations and technological breakthroughs, or perhaps simply the doctor who saves the life of your child.
Organizations of resilience are seen everywhere we turn, from family farms, to single proprietor craftspeople, to large private sector corporations, to governmental entities, to NGOs and educational institutions. During the course of a year these organizations may be dealing with recession and the resultant drop in business, the next a merger or acquisition perhaps a hostile takeover, the next a disruptive new competitor, the next a disruptive new technology. Each and every organization out there today will have a continuous stream of challenges that they will need to successfully overcome. And in today’s environment those challenges are coming at them at a faster and more furious pace. How do these organizations become more rather than less resilient to the forces that will constantly impinge and perhaps even use the constant state-of-change to their advantage?
Resiliency is the notion of positive adaptation when faced with significant adversity or environmental threats. This definition implies that significant threats or severe adversity is present and that the individual or organization positively copes with those threats. The research that has been done on resiliency has shown that being more resilient rather than less leads to more positive outcomes for both individuals and organizations. And it is pretty clear that organizations that partake of certain activities can enhance their resiliency. Cutting across the literature the activities that make organizations more resilient seem to fall within 3 main buckets. The first one is paying attention to and mitigating the effects of the external environmental factors. The second bucket is investing in organizational capabilities and the third is recognition of achievements. Each of these buckets has sub-activities that could be summarized as follows:
Monitoring: Information collection, environmental monitoring and the appropriate analysis, dissemination and actions surrounding that information (for example, employee, customer and supplier surveys, mystery shopper, competitive benchmarking, technology awareness monitoring, market trends, the gathering and analysis of other business metrics)
Reducing: Minimizing the occurrence of negative chain reactions that can occur from one threat, before they spiral out of control. Compartmentalization of negative events so that they do not affect the entire organization. (for example, by the use of strong internal and external communications networks, strong accountability systems).
Warding: Investing in a shared vision, a shared operating style, senior leadership, employees, products and services, and quality—the standardization of those products and services as well as organizational procedures. (for example, creating a customer service culture, of a values statement, or a standard of operational excellence)
Transforming: Turning risks into opportunities by developing a culture of innovative and creating organizational capabilities (for example, rewarding innovative ideas and performance that goes above and beyond to solve problems, creating deep bench strength, tapping into the diversity of talent and developing that talent)
Enhancing: Increasing organizational effectiveness and efficacy (for example, cost control, state-of-the-art business processes, contingency planning)
Celebrating: Celebrating and rewarding organizational and personal accomplishments (for example, successful completion of organizational and personal goals; installing robust reward and recognition systems)
In reviewing a number of models and then stepping back from any single model of organizational performance, there appear to be six enduring challenges that virtually any organization faces in its pursuit of growth and financial sustainability, in terms of increasing its resiliency or, more generally, Organizational Vitality. These are the challenges that organizations need to become more resilient upon. Three of these challenges can be viewed as internally focused and there can be viewed as externally focused. They are:
Clear and Compelling Leadership. The overarching mission and direction of the organization needs to be developed and translated through its leaders in order to properly secure and align resources.
Engaged Employees. Organizations need to create an engaging experience to encourage the most from the people who fuel the processes, create the innovation, and deliver for the customers.
Quality Work Processes. Products need to be efficiently created and, along with services, effectively delivered.
Attractive Offerings. Organizations seek to create value by providing customers—particularly paying customers—with valued and competitive products and services.
Service Orientation. Organizations need to instill a service orientation. No matter what the organization offers, it must be offered in a manner that distinguishes the organization.
Customer as Brand Advocates. Developing brand advocates who are willing to speak highly of your products or service in this interconnected age is critical.
Increasing an organization’s resiliency like any other activity is not a magic bullet that solves each and every problem faced, however the evidence does seem clear that resiliency enhancement can have positive and lasting organizational performance improvement affects.
Saltzman, J.M. & Brooks, S.M. (2010), Strategic Surveying in the Global Marketplace and the Role of Vitality Measures. In Lundby, K. (ed.), Going Global: Practical Applications and Recommendations for HR and OD Professionals in the Global Workplace. Jossey Bass.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
In the August 23/30th issue, Newsweek magazine printed its first ever list of the world’s best countries in which to live. They reviewed 100 countries and you can see the complete listing here. Their definition of best was “which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life.” Knowing the dangerous waters in which they were treading they clearly state that “people practically anywhere in the world will find something to love – and something to hate” about the listing.
The listing reminded me of a study that I did in 2006, examining the responses to employee surveys across 52 countries, 49 of which were on the Newsweek list. The number of survey item responses I examined was approximately 29 million. I decided to revisit the data and looked up the press release which was put out about the study, which you can see here.
First, a brief description of the two lists. The Newsweek list rated each country on education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment, combining those categories into an overall score on a scale of 1 to 100, ranging from Finland with an overall score of 89.4 to Berkina Faso at 33.6. The USA came in at 85.5. My research reviewed employee ratings of their employers on a myriad of organizational variables, such as management effectiveness, pride, satisfaction, training, communications, decision making etc. Those survey items were combined and one overall score ranging between 1 and 100 on “Employee Positiveness” based on percent of employee responding favorably was calculated for each country.
As I glanced at the Newsweek list I was struck by the number of countries at the top of their list that I recalled being at the lower end of my listing, and the number of countries at the bottom of their chart that were among the most favorably scoring from an Employee Positiveness perspective, so I took a closer look.
I examined only the 49 countries that the two lists had in common. There were 22 countries from my research that scored below the worldwide Employee Positiveness average score of 64% favorable, ranging from New Zealand at 63 to Japan at 45. Among those 22 countries from the bottom half of my distribution, 20 of them were from the top half of the Newsweek distribution. In other words, 20 of the 22 countries with the lowest scores on Employee Positiveness, scored in the top half rank on the Best Places to Live list. Among the 27 countries that scored above the worldwide Employee Positiveness average of 64, 11 of them were at in the bottom half of the Newsweek Best Places to Live list, ranging from Indonesia with an Employee Positiveness score of 77% favorable to Mayasia, Argentina, and Thailand all at 64%. The USA came in at 67%.
Using Spearman’s rank order correlation I found a -.54 (negative) correlation between the two lists comprising the 49 in common countries. This means that there is a tendency for those countries which are rated as among the Best Places to Live to have the lowest scores on Employee Positiveness. What gives?
Could it be that people who live in countries that are better performing in the areas of health, safety, providing a reasonably prosperous environment and an upwardly mobile life also create a level of discontent among the workforce? Could it be that the people with the most are just never satisfied? The Employee Positiveness scores were from employees whose companies had decided to conduct employee attitudes surveys and hence represent a sub-group of people from each country, namely, those who are employed, typically by an American or European multinational. If you examine the Newsweek list for low scoring Best Countries to Live that are high on Employee Positiveness, you find countries like Indonesia, Columbia, Guatemala, Philippines, Venezuela, and India with some of the most extreme difference scores, meaning high on one list and low on the other. These are countries that have fairly large gaps between the haves and the have not’s. So if you are working for an American or European multinational in one of those countries life is pretty good, but if you are an average Joe on the street, not so much.
The interpretation is more difficult if you are from a high scoring Best Place to Live country such as Finland, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands that have fairly low Employee Positiveness scores. Are these simply cultures that are more cynical, more reserved, less exuberant, could they be populated by people who are just less positive about working for larger multinational businesses?
There are two countries that standout as having fairly high scores on both Best Places to Live and Employee Positiveness. One is the United States and the other is Switzerland. In the United States we rank 11th in the world as a Best Place to Live and 14th in terms of Employee Positiveness, pretty much even in terms of rankings on the two measures. Are those of us in the USA more aware of how good we have it and have the attitude to match, or is it just a fluke? Hard to say.
I do like to think that as US employers consider where to locate jobs around the world that some of this data may be indicative of the notion that perhaps there is simply “no place like home”.
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