06 Aug Organisational stress audits – the fast route to employee engagement
Stress in organisations is a modern day plague impacting employee engagement, productivity and organisational learning.
Organisational stress audits find out the true costs of stress and employee disengagement. This valuable data helps you redesign employment conditions to create a low-stress work culture. And a low-stressed work culture means higher productivity and fully engaged employees.
The impact of stress penetrates every aspect of a working organisation
Stressed organisations harm not just your people, but also every aspect of the organisation’s functioning.
Stress impacts directly people’s health, their ability to think clearly and rationally, their judgement, their ability and willingness to collaborate with their peers, their enthusiasm, their interactions with clients and customers, their positivity and optimism, their ability to empathize and a whole range of other factors that are important for added value working. This is why, absenteeism, sickness and compensations are not the major cost of stress. The really destructive aspect of stress is the enormous cost incurred for every stressed employee still at work.
Through the medium of the individual, stress penetrates every aspect of a working organisation. And this is where the real costs tend to escalate.
The organisational symptoms include widespread dis-engagement of the work force, corrupted decision-making, damaged working relationships, wasteful internal politics, resistance to change and indifferent creative problem solving. This is to name but a few. Stressed organisations seem incapable of innovating, learning from their mistakes or working coherently towards their goals.
The cost of a momentary loss of attention
Warren was in a last minute panic. He was trying desperately to meet a client’s punishing deadline on a £250,000 contract. Although experienced at his job, this client was new to Warren; protocols were unfamiliar, as were the people he had to deal with. Working from home at 10:00 pm after a hectic day in the office, a momentary loss of attention induced him to make a tiny slip whilst transferring data from one spread sheet to another. The impact was of course totally disproportionate to the size of the error. There was a cash cost to the firm of £50,000 sorting out the ensuing mess. He had inadvertently sent product to wrong addresses right across Northern Europe.
The clients were not very impressed either.
The company could have avoided the whole episode with just a little attention and planning from his line manager. But another problem was, Warren didn’t have a line manager. Funnily enough, she was off on long-term leave due to stress. In the meantime, the department was just having to ‘make do’. Warren was left floundering on his own with a new client that dumped three months work on him in his first month on the job. Everyone else in the department was fully stretched and too busy to help. I suspect this type of stress rings bells with many readers; too much to do, too little time to do it and no one to help.
Management is often its own worst enemy
Findings from neuroscience and psychology tell us that management is often its own worst enemy. This is because they go about trying to engage employees the wrong way. Perhaps this mistake arises because, until recently, we have had no means to identify exactly what harm we were doing. Similarly we have had no way of measuring the exact costs of the damage. Quite simply, until now, management theory has not been able to teach us why or how the harm is being done in the first place.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
The violation of key psychological needs triggers the stress response
Powerful principles from the field of psychotherapy now provide a straightforward and explanation. Modern science shows how to unleash the latent potential of a totally engaged workforce. And that is quite simply by reducing stressful working conditions. To do this, what you have to do is help meet a range of psychological needs. At the same time you then activate the innate human resources usually dormant in disengaged employees.
Human beings have survived and prospered due to one overriding factor. And that is that we have evolved into highly socialized, collaborative problem-solving mammals. Our very nature is to be part of a group and participate in a collaborative way for the survival of that group. This means collaborative problem solving is both a need and a highly valuable innate mental and emotional faculty.
The shame is that all too often our hierarchical organisations squeeze us into structures that prevent any meaningful expression of these needs and talents.
Collectively, we are ignoring the inclination to collaborate, in support of mutual goals. This faculty is part of our DNA. Where we work against this vital human survival trait, we unwittingly trigger the stress response. The resultant stress translates directly into a range of unwelcome symptoms. Not least of which are sloppy work, poor interaction, and defective decision-making.
Currently stress is intrinsic to the way we run our organisations
The hierarchy’s structural barrier to our core need to collaborate has profound consequences. It means that currently stress is intrinsic to the way we run our organisations. Not only is this stress totally unnecessary, it is also the underlying reason why organisations under perform and fail. And this problem applies to both the public and private sector.
Quite simply, management often works against the grain of human nature and so creates a stressed organisation. Unfortunately, the economic and social costs of this fundamental error are enormous.
Organisational stress audits can uplift performance by 25 to 50%
Using an organisational stress audit to find out where and why stress is cropping up in the work place or where it might do so in the future is the first step to making huge cost savings. Stress audits succeed for two main reasons. Firstly, they locate the existing ‘stressors’ and so help alleviate them. Secondly the audit also helps managers recognise when they are generating stress for their staff and themselves.
Through a sophisticated system of “organisational stress auditing” we can now pinpoint where any of 30 stressors may be causing you problems. An organisational stress audit measures the extent and the impact that stress is having on your organisation’s effectiveness and translates this data into financial terms. Once we have identified the relevant stressors and measured their impact it is very often relatively easy and sometimes even cost free to remove or at least ease them.
Remedies to stress are very often cost free
Remedying organisational stress usually falls into two categories. Firstly, carrying out a simple redesign of work patterns and procedures. Secondly, the modification of organisational structures to be more compatible with healthy and productive working. Ancillary remedies, techniques, and training reinforce the redesign element.
Typically when you remove or at least alleviate organisational stress you can achieve an average performance uplift of 25% to 50%. We are so confident of this that with our stress audits we offer a money back guarantee if the benefits of the audit are less than the cost. But frankly we expect to see a return on investment of at least 10 : 1 or 20 : 1 and sometimes quite a bit more.
Stress or motivation – the leadership choice
Learn more about how our organisational stress audits can help improve employee engagement and your organisation’s productivity and performance. Contact Jeremy Old on 0845 0945 819 or Download more info on stress audits.
Reinventing management thinking
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In this groundbreaking book, the author explains the psychological reasons why collaborative management methods such as Hoshin Kanri are so much more successful than conventional top down command and control.
Jeremy is qualified to MBA level, with a post-graduate diploma in psychotherapy.