This post by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, first appeared on Forbes.com.
True or false:
Kittens and puppies boost your bottom line.
Believe it or not, true. In 2012, Japanese researchers found that subjects who viewed photos of adorable wee critters performed a task requiring care and attention 10 percent better than if they saw no cute ducklings or bunnies. Demure tiny elephants, in other words, motivated people to do better work.
At first, I saw this bit of social science as fodder the start of a Saturday Night Live skit that devolves into bosses in panda costumes popping into cubicles and shouting, “Are you happy NOW?”
But the research actually points to two pieces of good news for business leaders. The first: the culture of your workplace has a measurable, positive effect on employee performance. The second: You can create and change your company culture.
Today’s thriving companies expect and get superlative performance by creating a culture that inspires and supports people to do their best work. At the core, these leaders are taking the normal stress of work and flipping it from a negative experience to a positive one. Take Netflix, for instance, reframing often stressful HR policies around vacation time and bonus pay into opportunities for employees to be self-directed and directly responsible for the company’s well-being.
To create this kind of culture, you need to make these two words your motto: resilience and motivation.
I. Build Resilience
Dr. Andrew Shatté, resilience expert, and Chief Science Officer of meQuilibrium, has defined seven essential resilience skills that can be developed by anyone with proper training. These include:
- Impulse Control (focusing on the most important things);
- Causal Analysis (changing what you can and remaining focused on the greater good your work does);
- Empathy (understanding what motivates other people, what they think and feel, and being able to put yourself in their shoes);and
- Emotion Regulation (the ability to keep calm under adversity).
The stronger these skills, the better able an employee is able to respond productively to stress triggers and do good work faster. (And so are you.) Globoforce, an employee recognition company, estimated that employee stress reduction and resilience training could reduce the current turnover rate by 2%–a savings of $10.2 million per year for a company of 10,000 employees.
The question is: What are you doing to ensure your team’s resilience? What measures have you put in place to learn from the hard stuff so that your ability to bounce back becomes more skilled, focused, and sustainable? Try these three “power engagement” resilience techniques to impact your business. Try making mistakes a learning experience.
- Try making mistakes a learning experience.
- Support risk taking, so that people are less afraid to try things that may not work.
- Encourage people to try again for the good of the team – it will get them back in the game and strengthen their connection to the community.
II. Cultivate Motivation
So you’ve recognized what negative stress is costing you, and you’ve begun to shift the company culture to build resilience so that stress doesn’t wreak havoc again. Now your question shifts to, “What will motivate us to do the best at our jobs?”
There has been some fascinating research recently into the nature of motivation, including the work of behavioral economist Dan Ariely. Some motivations are simple (the baby animal photos, for example) and others are richer — to be good at what we do, to have some control over what we do, and to have what we do matter.
I find that last one to be the most compelling. In one study Ariely cites, employees’ performance improved after learning why their job was important — even if they didn’t consciously acknowledge that information as a motivating force. Purpose plus resilience is what will keep you and everyone around you not just afloat, but swimming hard. (Read more on the purpose-driven business.)
The upshot of this culture work is a company that can not only compete, but also make an impact. Help your employees get the skills to be resilient under stress. Give them a purpose worth the fight. Then watch your work change the world.
Want to learn more? Download this white paper on resilience.