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Archive for August 2010

Healthy, Safe, Prosperous and Unhappy

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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”.

© 2010 by OrgVitality, Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Desire to Work, Unemployment and Social Safety Nets

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Some of the research I have done over the last few years treats countries as nothing more than large organizations, with each country’s respective head of state filling the role of CEO. This approach has enabled me to apply the research techniques developed over the last few decades, such as linkage, on measuring organizational performance to entire countries. Not surprisingly, the results we would expect to find at an organizational level, say a public or private entity within a country, also applies when you sample a representative cross-section of citizenry and look at country-level performance indicators such as GDP growth or corporate bankruptcy rates. I developed an index a good number of years ago called Employee Confidence, and since June 2008 was measuring it quarterly on 16,000 people in the 12 largest global economies.

Within just the USA for one study, I treated each state as the organizational unit and made comparisons of citizenry attitudes to unemployment levels, and by looking at the change in attitudes over time, was able to get some indication of whether the citizenry attitudes were a leading indicator of what unemployment levels would be or a lagging indicator. The largest correlations between citizenry attitudes and unemployment came when linking together attitudes at time 1, with the following month’s unemployment level. In other words, the strongest relationships found were between attitudes now and what officially reported unemployment levels would be 1 month from now. This relationship was marginally stronger than the relationship between current attitudes compared to the previous month’s unemployment levels (postdictive – unemployment levels, the month preceding the measurement of the attitudes), current attitudes compared to current unemployment levels (concurrent points in time), and current attitudes compared to unemployment 2 months out. This would seem to give some indication that asking a cross section of citizenry about their levels of Employee Confidence might be a leading indicator of whether unemployment levels and potentially other economic metrics were heading upwards or downwards in the near term, and this leading indicator can be available before officially reported economic figures.

I recently co-authored with Scott Brooks, a book chapter, appearing in Going Global, for the Professional Practice Series, for the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology which documented some of the major findings from this body of research.

Now, given that the evidence suggests that certain citizenry attitudes at a country level can be used in a similar fashion to employee attitudes in predicting organizational performance we can begin to draw some conclusions not only about “people at work” which has been done countless times, but about “people as working or unemployed citizens”.

For instance, a good number of years ago I looked at the combination of workload and employee satisfaction or morale in the workplace. Here is an excerpt published in Executive Viewpoints on that work. “Employees who consider their workload to be “about right” tend to be the most satisfied with their jobs, while those who say they are underworked are even less happy than employees who complain of being overworked”.

“The study looked at the job satisfaction levels of more than 800,000 employees at 61 companies worldwide. Of the companies surveyed, 75% have operations in North America, 11% have operations in Europe, and 14% have operations in Asia. Employees participating in the survey were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with their jobs, as it relates to their workload, on a 100-point scale. Respondents who described their workload as “about right” rated their job satisfaction at an average of 73, while employees who said they had “too much work” rated their satisfaction level at 57. Those with “much too much work” had an average satisfaction rating of 42. By contrast, those who said they have “too little work” rated their job satisfaction at 49, and those who complained of having “much too little work” had the lowest average job satisfaction rating, of 32. The survey also identified variations in the way workers in different parts of the world felt about their workloads.

“Results showed that employees in Europe and Asia were about three times less likely as North American workers to say they were satisfied with having “much too little work.” Employees in North America who said they had “much too little work” had an average satisfaction rating of 36, whereas European workers in this category had a satisfaction rating of 12, and Asian employees a rating of 13. The study also showed that employees in Europe and Asia who claimed they have “much too much work” were somewhat less satisfied with their jobs than their counterparts in North America. While North American employees who said their workload was much too heavy had an average job satisfaction rating of 44, European and Asian employees with “much too much work” rated their job satisfaction at 34 and 25, respectively.”

Some conclusions that can be drawn looking across these studies include:

  • There is some generalizability possible between employee attitudes at work, and given a large enough and a representative sample, citizenry attitudes at a country level.
  • People tend to be more positive when working productively and on a whole would rather be working harder than not having enough to do. When they do not have enough to do, either at their employer or when unemployed, there is a tendency to feel that their contribution is not valued either by their employer or society.
  • The notion that creating societies with strong social safety nets, such as unemployment insurance, as has been done in some European countries to an even greater extent than in the USA, diminishes the desire to work does not bear out.

There is a tendency for humans to make decisions and draw conclusions representing their world-view based on heuristics, or rules of thumb. The down side of this evolutionary derived shortcut to speedier human information processing is that it can play into stereotypes and even bias and bigotry if one is not careful.

And there is a tendency on the part of organizations to also simplify their need to process information, which requires an expenditure of energy (i.e. resources) by creating rules which are broadly applied to those who reside within the organization. Unfortunately, these rules are often derived to control the outliers in the organizational distribution, the worst case scenario, rather than the vast majority who are in the “fat” part of the distribution.

Lets apply some evidence-based decision making to the notion that by extending unemployment insurance, we as a society, are creating benefits that are so generous that those who are unemployed will have less of a desire to work.

  • The evidence suggests that the vast majority of people are happiest when working, and in fact are happier when over-worked rather than underworked.
  • The evidence suggests that in societies with strong social safety-nets that there is no diminution of the happiness and satisfaction for the majority of workers that working and working hard brings.

It is possible to go into the general population and at the extremes of the behavioral distribution find individuals who fit the worst-case scenarios of people who do not want to work and would rather collect money from the in-place social safety nets, but they are nowhere near what the majority of us want and what makes most people feel good about themselves. Based on a review of multiple databases that include both the private and public sector, the evidence is clear, most people want to do a good job at work, want to feel that they are contributing in a meaningful fashion, would rather be overworked rather than underworked and their frustration levels and eventual withdrawal from the organization can be driven by their inability to do so.

© 2010 by OrgVitality, Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Dr. David W. Bracken joins OrgVitality to Lead 360 Survey/Coaching Practice

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Dr. David W. Bracken has joined OrgVitality, LLC to lead the organization’s 360 Survey and Coaching practices. David assists clients to make design and implementation decisions that will result in creating sustainable behavior change utilizing sustainable 360 processes. Main themes in his approach include reliable measurement, increasing awareness and acceptance, and creating accountability. David has coached hundreds of 360 participants and their managers on effective interpretation, use and follow through on their feedback.

Internationally, David is well known as a leader in and for advancing the science of multisource (360 degree) feedback, particularly in its use to create large scale change and to improve talent management decisions.  Prolific and widely published, David is the senior editor and a contributor to “The Handbook of MultiSource Feedback” (Bracken, Timmreck, and Church (Eds.), Jossey-Bass, 2000), and “Should 360 Degree Feedback Be Used Only for Developmental  Purposes?” (Bracken et al., CCL, 1997).  David also contributed a chapter on 360 Feedback to “Organizational Surveys: Tools for Assessment and Change” (Kraut, Jossey-Bass, 1996).

Of David’s many articles which he authored or co-authored on 360 Feedback, perhaps the  most significant and nominated for a best article award, is “360 Feedback from Another Angle” (Bracken, Timmreck, Fleenor and Summers,Human Resource Management, 2000). In that article, a valid 360 process is defined as one that creates “sustained, observed improvement in behaviors valued by the organization”.  In order to achieve that goal, the article approaches 360 feedback from a total systems perspective that goes beyond having a reliable measurement instrument.

While David’s main areas of emphasis have been 360 Degree Feedback and organizational/ engagement surveys, he has also has significant experience in individual/team/organization assessment, assessment centers, leadership development, performance management, competency models, change management, and executive coaching. David’s expertise and background are also deeply grounded in organizational survey programs. He managed the employee survey programs for Xerox and BellSouth, and was their representative to Mayflower (a survey consortium). One of his articles on this topic is “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Employee Surveys” (with Karen B. Paul inTraining & Development, 1995).

Since he began his career, David has been both an internal staff member and external consultant to varied organizations.  As an internal staff member his experience includes Xerox, BellSouth, and National Computer Systems.  In addition to internal staff positions mentioned above David also has extensive experience as an external consultant having worked in leadership positions at Personnel Decisions Intl, Towers Perrin, Mercer Delta Consulting, and Kenexa.

In recognition of his thought leadership position, Dr. Bracken has been asked to conduct a 2011 workshop (with Dr. Carol A. Jenkins) for the annual meeting of The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology in Chicago, titled, “Coming full circle with 360s:  Driving and sustaining individual and organizational change.”

David received his BA degree from Dartmouth College, and MS and PhD degrees in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has been an adjunct faculty member at St. John Fisher College and Rochester Institute of Technology. David is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), and the Society of Consulting Psychology. He has served on multiple SIOP committees, and the Editorial Board for the Book Review section of Personnel Psychology. He is a Certified Professional Coach from the College of Executive Coaching.

David can be reached at

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

Uphill in the Snow, Both Ways

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“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as the end.”

Immanuel Kant

After reminding my daughter what is was like when I gave birth to her, with my wife smiling peculiarly in the background, I often remind her of what things were like when I was growing up. I regale her with stories of how we made do with so little compared to today. For instance, I don’t know how many times I have described how I used to carry my little sister to and from school on my back, while barefoot in the snow, uphill, both ways – – before breakfast. And how when my shoes got a little small, how we would cut off the toes (of the shoes), to make them last just a bit longer, or how we lived in a house so small, that you had to be careful not to break the window in the back when you put the key in the front door to unlock it. And after amusing ourselves just a bit with these tales, it tends to take on a more somber note as we realize just how lucky we really are.

When we were kids we had a much better standard of living than what our parents had and lived in much better circumstances, and if you go back one additional generation, circumstances and living conditions were truly awful. My mom’s parents had gotten as far as Ellis Island in the late 1910’s before being told that the quota was full. They were given a choice of Canada or Cuba and I guess Cuba sounded warmer. So my mom was born in Havana, Cuba, her first language was Spanish with a heavy dose of Yiddish, and Russian. Her dad started off manufacturing ties in the living room of their small rental apartment at night and then took to the streets during the day to sell his wares. For one of her birthdays she got a roller skate, just one, as her parents could not afford one for each foot, so she learned to skate using just one of those old fashioned skates with four wheels, one in each corner. When her shoes did wear out, with a hole in the bottom, her father would carefully cut newspapers to line the shoes so that they would last just a bit longer. And after that unexpected side trip and struggle in Cuba, twenty-some years later they finally made it to the USA, their dream, where my mom and her parents eventually became naturalized US citizens. She was introduced by a cousin to my dad, who was returning from WWII, after serving in the army in Europe, doing stints in England, France and Germany, and they soon fell in love and got married.

My dad, of course, had no end to the stories he could tell about what it was like growing up in Providence and Brooklyn. He was the oldest son of three, born in 1920, just a day after his parents landed in New York and that accident of timing made him an instant US citizen. He remembered how horse drawn carts would deliver milk and other goods to the various neighborhoods as he was growing up and how a Coke and hotdog was 5 cents. His father worked repairing radiators in the streets of the lower east side of New York (and was exposed to some nasty chemicals that likely finally killed him) and eventually saved up enough money to open a small candy shop in Brooklyn, and after that did not work out, became a furrier in the garment district. Two of my grandparents three sons fought for this country in WWII, one in the Pacific Theater (who slightly exaggerated his age at enlistment) served in the Navy and one in the European Theater in the Army. The third son was too young at the start of the war to serve. All three brothers now lay side-by-side in a cemetery just north of New York City.

The thing that is the most remarkable about these stories is that while the details of the events may be, the essence of the stories are not unique, with the vast majority of families in the USA today able to share similar stories of their own family’s struggles and tumults as they sought to gain a foothold in this great country. When you look at the bigger picture, we are a nation, by and large, of immigrants and we are all more similar than we are different. The drive and desire that the immigrants brought with them powered us to the heights that we have achieved. Yet there are those who tend to look for the differences between us rather than the similarities that bind us together. Differences can of course be found if you want, but we are better served by examining and building on our similarities. Most of us for instance, want a better future for our children than what we or our ancestors may have had or at least one similar to our own. All of us want to be treated with respect and dignity, our humanity being recognized and valued. We all want to be given a fair shake by society, an equal chance to succeed, as others have had. And we all want to be able to pursue our cherished dreams, our happiness that our constitution lists as a fundamental right.

The same holds true in the world of work, and no one should be surprised by that for the world of work is nothing more than a reflection of our society as a whole.

Utilitarian philosophy as described by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham is a worldview that societies should exist and decisions should get made in service of the greater good, majority rules. That logic can be used when laying off workers, the greater good of preserving the organization and jobs for the other employees being served. But it is not difficult to knock holes in the efficacy of this approach for every situation. For instance, say you were a doctor and had 5 very sick people in your office. Two needed kidneys, one a lung, one a heart, one a liver. In the next room you had one healthy patient. That one healthy patient, if sacrificed, could save the lives of the 5 other people and thereby increase the greater good, by donating the needed organs. Does that one person, representing a minority in that doctor’s office have rights to keep his organs, even though it would serve the greater good to give them up? Of course it becomes rather obvious that we don’t make decisions that way when it comes to such an example. But that argument was used by the advocates of Proposition 8 in California which barred non-heterosexual marriage, that simply because the majority (52%) of Californians voted for it, that homosexuals and lesbians were forfeit of their rights. What if the 5 sick patients in the doctor’s office voted to have the organs removed from the only healthy patient? Would that fly?

John Locke, widely known as the father of liberalism, countered that approach by stating that man has certain inalienable rights, that even if the majority or the greater good is not served, that each individual has the right to life, liberty and property, which Thomas Jefferson broadened out later on to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One major point of Locke and Jefferson is that majority rule could not simply erase the rights of an individual even if that individual was a minority of one; these inalienable rights were fundamental and as such could not be pushed aside by legislative decree. And building on that, Kant’s moral imperative can be summed up as not treating people as a means to achieving your own self-serving goals, but treating them in accordance to their humanity, as humanity is the end state which we all have in common.

Back to the world of work. Many organizations today benefit from their ability to promote their products as being “green”. One recent research study concluded that being green was not a passing fad, but that it is here to stay and those companies that operate in a green fashion are more likely to have greater increases in sales than those with similar products, but are not as green or green at all. So here is a question that I pose. Given what roles humans have in organizations, how do we create organizations that are “GREEN” when it comes to their PEOPLE and not just around their products and services? How do we employ people in a sustainable fashion? How to they treat people so that they support the notions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and treat people for the sake of their humanity and not as a means to an organizational end? Are the rights of the individual forfeit when it comes to organizational or employee life? What are the obligations of organizations to operate in such a manner that reflect the greater values that we as a society have adopted?

I would expect, of course, a great diversity of thought.

© 2010 by OrgVitality, Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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August 8, 2010 at 8:22 pm

ORGVITALITY, LLC Certified as a Top 20% Performer

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ORGVITALITY, LLC Certified as a Top 20% Performer

Customer references indicate outstanding past performance to Open Ratings during PPE survey process.

WALTHAM, MA – August 3, 2010 – OrgVitality has been certified as a Top 20% Performer based on the Past Performance Evaluation survey responses of its reference customers. ‘s PPE score of 94/100 demonstrates outstanding overall customer satisfaction relative to similar companies.

About the Past Performance Evaluation (PPE) Program

Each year, Open Ratings helps thousands of companies secure contracts with large purchasing organizations such as the GSA by verifiying their performance with Past Performance Evaluations (PPEs). The customer satisfaction metrics that are evaluated include:

  • Reliability
  • Cost
  • Order accuracy
  • Delivery/timeliness
  • Quality
  • Business relations
  • Personnel
  • Customer support
  • Responsiveness

The PPE score is based on the survey feedback of between four and twenty verified references. The Top 20% rating is relative to similar companies during the same time period.

About Open Ratings

Open Ratings is a leading provider of software, services and information for proactive supply management. Open Ratings solutions help companies to lower costs, reduce risks and increase profitability by reducing supply management costs and improving supply management initiatives. At the core of Open Ratings solutions is patent-pending predictive technology that provides advance notice of supplier performance and financial stability problems. For more information, visit Open Ratings on the Web at

To learn more about the Open Ratings Certified PPE program, go .

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Posted in OrgVitality

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