Dennis Draeger, Foresight Researcher, Aiglatson Foresight Research
22 June 2011
Modern life is overloaded with demands on employees. They are pressured and stressed from their company and their families. It is increasingly difficult to retain employees and maintain their efficiency because of these heightened pressures, but companies are finding ways to engage their employees on an emotional level and help them reconcile their professional and personal lives—improving their productivity.
What is changing?
Centre for Mental Health calculated that presenteeism—the underperforming of employees at work who are sick–from low mental health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, while absenteeism costs £8.4 billion. At the same time, JDA Professional Services calculated the cost of replacing a skilled employee earning $60,000 per year in the IT sector at $150,000 in direct costs such as adverts etc. and in indirect costs such as lost investment in training and company knowledge and damage to morale.To address these issues, Walmart has created My Sustainability Plan, a gamified service, to help employees live better lives. Leveraging game dynamics to elevate social and wellness programs encourages participants to take a more energetic role in their health and wellness. For companies trying to influence behavior, gaming mechanics are today’s hot trend. Good gamification can amplify the intrinsic rewards of a particular behavior–to increase the feelings of fun and accomplishment.
Other companies are getting more personal. Workplace chaplains have become a growing trend in corporate America to give employees the emotional support they need to handle problems and come to work with increased efficiency. Chesapeake Energy Corp. hired a dedicated full-time, on-site chaplain, and other employers such as G.E. Oil & Gas ESP use contracting services such as Marketplace Chaplains which charge a monthly fee.
On the other side of the coin, EBoss Watch has launched a website which encourages employees to rate their bosses and their workplaces. Prospective employees can anonymously search for and evaluate their new boss and workplace before accepting a position. Poor management already affects performance within the workplace, and studies have shown that employees leave their bosses not their jobs. Now poor management and poor leadership will also affect future employees and even prospective customers.
A prime example of poor leadership is Satyam Computer Services, often considered India’s Enron. However, the company survived its CEO’s confession of massive fraud by helping its employees focus on their emotional trauma which kept productivity high as the company attempted to re-establish its reputation. While the company was soon acquired, nearly half the employees were able to keep their jobs.
Why is this important?
Uncertainty is rampant in this economic climate, and employees are afraid of radical changes which endanger their jobs—reducing their health and productivity while increasing presenteeism, sick leave, and early resignations. Also, more employees are looking at a company’s values, vision, and culture when considering positions. If companies are to walk the talk on ‘our people are our greatest asset’ then new approaches to employees’ emotional wellbeing make hard economic sense.