Every company wants to find the secret sauce, the magic bean, or just a competitive edge that could increase engagement, productivity, employee retention, and profitability.
Well, Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of consulting firm The Energy Project, and Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, conducted a 19,000-person survey and found out what employees need to be more satisfied and productive.
The survey, which was conducted through Harvard Business Review's website, reached employees from all levels and positions from many different companies in a broad range of industries to answer a series of questions aimed at uncovering "what stands in the way of you being more satisfied and productive at work?"
The duo, who wrote about their results in Harvard Business Review, found that employees "feel better and perform better and more sustainably when four basic needs are met," Schwartz and Porath write. See the four core needs explained below.
Everyone needs rest. Working your employees seven days a week, emailing them late at night expecting a response, and telling them to put off vacation until the winter will only make them burn out, unravel mentally, and deteriorate physically. Give them a break, it'll make them be more productive when they come back. It's obvious, but does your policies reflect this common sense? "Is there any doubt that when we feel more energized, appreciated, focused and purposeful, we perform better? Think about it: The opportunity and encouragement to intermittently rest and renew our energy during the work day serves as an antidote to the increasing overload so many of us feel in a world of relentlessly rising demand," Schwartz and Porath write.
Do you let your employees know how much you value their dedication, hard work, long hours, and great ideas? You may value them, but you need to show it. "Feeling valued creates a deeper level of trust and security at work, which frees us to spend less energy seeking and defending our value, and more energy creating it," Schwartz and Porath write.
Are your employees able to sit down and focus? If your office environment is distracting, doesn't have private space to concentrate, or you are sending entirely too many emails, you should think about making some chnages. "In a world in which our attention is increasingly under siege, better focus makes it possible get more work done, in less time, at a higher level of quality," the two write.
If your company doesn't have a deeper mission than work hard and go home, your employees will feel as though you're sucking out their soul. Give them purpose. "And finally, a higher purpose--the sense that what we do matters and serves something larger than our immediate self-interest--is a uniquely powerful source of motivation," Schwartz and Porath write.
The effects of meeting core needs.
Although the core needs are a bit obvious, many companies do not meet any of them. But if you meet just one of these needs, employee productivity will increase, Schwartz and Porath discovered. "We found that meeting even one of the four core needs had a dramatic impact on every performance variable we studied," they write.
Measuring for engagement, likelihood of retention, stress reduction, focus, life satisfaction, and positive energy at work, Schwartz and Porath found that when employees at a company feel any one of their four needs has been met, they report a 30 percent higher capacity to focus, almost 50 percent higher level of engagement, and a 63 percent greater likelihood to stay with the company.
Schwartz and Porath say there is a "straight dose effect" when an employee's core needs are met, meaning "the cumulative positive impact rises with each additional need that gets satisfied." In other words, when all four needs are met, engagement rises from 50 percent for one need to 125 percent. The duo also found engagement positively correlates with profitability. "In a meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies, employers with the most engaged employees were 22 percent more profitable than those with the least engaged employees," Schwartz and Porath write.
One important thing to note is how stress levels change less drastically. When a single need is met, stress levels only dip six percent. If a company meets three needs, employee stress levels reduce by 33 percent, and meeting four needs produce a 72 percent drop.
"The message to employers is blindingly obvious. None of us can live by bread alone. We perform better when the full range of our needs are taken into account," Schwartz and Porath write. "Rather than trying to forever get more out of their people, companies are far better served by systematically investing in meeting as many of their employees' core needs as possible, so they're freed and fueled to bring the best of themselves to work."