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Enhancing Organizational Performance

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

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