In today’s world of recession, cutbacks, and business closures, can we really say that the old adage, “employees are our most important resource” still rings true?
Should we as managers actually care about the quality of life for our employees, and if so, what can we actually do about it? We can argue that now, more than ever, we should invest time and commitment in supporting our team of workers and believe that achieving a positive outcome for everyone’s benefit is not rocket science.
But what are the issues and how do we find out what areas need improvement? It would be easy to generalize around key themes often associated with employee welfare – things like increasing pressure to deliver in a climate of reduced resources often hit the headlines. We also often hear about the challenges of balancing a successful career with the needs of families. And then there are practical things which staff members need like support with healthcare, dental, life insurance and IRAs. This can extend to emotional and intellectual needs with mentoring, support, counseling services to support employee growth and even academic development by encouraging employees to get their masters degree in an area like management.
The starting point surely must be knowing and understanding the needs of our staff. Company surveys, whether formal or informal, focus group discussions and one to one talks with individual employees are all effective ways of finding out if there are serious issues to address. Being involved in the development and delivery of solutions to deal with these challenges will also empower employees, making them feel part of the change.
This sort of information will also help shape solutions. Hans Selye, one of the pioneers of stress theory once said that, “Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” In other words, giving employees the tools to increase their resilience can adjust their perspective in relation to particular events both in and outside work.
But while small amounts of stress and pressure can, in the right scenario, act as a motivator and indeed boost performance, the sense of increasing and uncontrolled stress does seem to be a recurrent feature of the modern workplace. The great thinker Ghandi once said that, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
We, as employers, would do well to heed these words and recognize that we can help employees by managing conflicting demands and promoting greater flexibility for them in how tasks are delivered.
An approach which demonstrates that “we are all in this together,” but does not remove the onus on the leader; can contribute to a better quality of life for our teams. The bottom line is that this commitment to enhancing quality of life can and will lead to more job satisfaction and in turn to greater productivity; so it is an area we should see as our top priority. We really can say that regardless of what is happening in the wider business environment, our employees are still our most important resource.