Every two weeks we bring you opinion, news and research on Employee Engagement, Leadership and Organisational Performance, along with some thoughts on practical workplace applications.

Editorial: Being Purposeful About Happiness at Work

I love the idea of people being happy in their work; after all, on average we all spend a third of our waking hours there. But we mustn’t confuse being happy at work with being engaged, or with being productive. There are plenty of people who are perfectly happy at work whilst being neither engaged nor productive!

Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science, suggests that “happiness should be defined as the flow of pleasure and purpose over time. A happy life is one in which an individual has daily experiences that generate a good balance between fun on the one hand and fulfilment on the other.” (See report, p. 27)

Two things leap out of this for me. Firstly, work-place happiness is not achieved through a one-off activity; if any employee is going to be happy at work, then it should be considered over time, not as a snapshot. Secondly, happiness is not just about pleasure; a sense of purpose and fulfilment are also critical. I think that’s why people often enjoy repeated holidays in a beautiful place but can become disillusioned if they retire there.

It is self-evident that many people are not happy at work, and the research suggests that having a clear sense of purpose actually helps people to feel happier in what they are doing, as well as being more productive [Steger et al, 2012].

At a time when organisations are still working hard at raising levels of engagement (there’s still a lot of work to do!) it’s important to remember that engagement doesn’t come about as a result of a series of activities laid on by the company; it comes about when every employee feels able to choose to be engaged.

And just as the research shows the connection between purpose and happiness, so our experience shows a direct connection between an organisation’s stated vision and values and the employees’ choice to align themselves to them.

Together, let’s focus our attention of the clarity of purpose as an aid to increasing engagement, happiness, and productivity.

Steve Short – Emenex

Blog:  Pulling the UK Out of the Productivity Nosedive!

Once again the issue of UK productivity has raised it’s painful head.

With the 2017 Budget came the news from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) that the UK economy will grow by less than 2% in each of the next 5 years – the worst forecast since 1983. Underpinning this is an even more worrying set of productivity figures. Larry Elliott of the Guardian suggested that this provides further evidence that “Britain is no longer the force that it used to be!”

“It’s hard to overstate how much productivity matters,” said Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. In addition, the Daily Telegraph suggested that the lack of investment in technology and training is at the heart of the issue. Achieving more from each hour worked, by improving technology and working practices, “allows wages to rise, lifts living standards and boosts the tax take to finance additional government spending.”

Just when you thought that the going was tough, Brexit could make things even tougher! So how do we address this potentially calamitous situation?  Read more.

Alistair Aitchison – Emenex

Engage for Success Insights now Reflected in UK Government’s New Industrial Strategy

The UK’s newly announced Industrial Strategy, launched on 27 November is radically different from the consultation document first seen back in January.

The original document listed ‘ten pillars’ for what it saw as necessary to successfully grow the economy. While these included proposals such as ‘Encouraging trade and inward investment’ and ‘Upgrading infrastructure’, Engage for Success (EFS) argued that ‘People’ needed to be central to the Strategy rather than merely tangentially referenced.

Ten months and 2000 responses to that document later – including the comprehensive response from Engage for Success – and the Strategy looks very different. It is now based on “Five Foundations of Productivity”, one of these Foundations being ‘People’!  Read more about EFS’s point of view and input here.

Opinion: Thinking About Ditching Your Annual Appraisal? Think Again

There are ways to make performance management more worthwhile, says Terry Gillen writing for People Management – but they require careful consideration

Most people dislike the annual appraisal, and its benefits are certainly questionable. Many high-profile organisations are publicly ditching their appraisal systems, and it can seem overwhelmingly tempting to follow suit, but it is worth looking at the issue more deeply before you do.

The clear operational focus of frequent, short-term reviews is supposed to encourage greater ownership by managers, and staff are believed to appreciate the more tangible goals. Unfortunately, these reviews can be dominated by managers’ short-term KPIs, leaving competencies and values overlooked.

A short-term focus can also ignore employees’ career development, which naturally needs a longer-term focus. The biggest performance improvement problem, however, remains unaffected: managing and developing staff performance requires people skills and people focus. Managers, however, tend to be operationally skilled and operationally focused.

There are a number of ways HR professionals can begin to address this imbalance.

Changing the Conversation: Shifting Attitudes About Career

Attitudes about career are changing, and what individuals want from career discussions is something different than what they had in the past.  Survey findings from Blessing White reveal the goal of establishing a “multiyear plan” for career is long gone. Employees want greater frequency and less formality in their career conversations.  This research will explore the need for organisations and managers to think differently about career and the important link between career and engagement.

Their survey findings point at a need to look at career through a new lens and frame the conversation differently. Key highlights and a link to the full report here.

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