Harvard Study: Employees Say Work Committment Depends On Purpose, Productivity On Relationships
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Business executives are, by nature, focused on the corporate bottom line. But Harvard researchers say they see a new trend in our dawning age of social sustainability supporting the notion that more attention should be paid to employees. New Harvard research says, affirming employee trust and purpose play a significant role in building successful, productive workplaces.
The behavioral research, conducted by a team at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, identifies the factors most likely to impact 21st century employee well being, commitment and productivity. The researchers found that commitment is largely influenced by one's sense of purpose, feeling of personal impact and overall trust in the organization. Productivity is largely affected by the quality of human relationships including cooperative, social group moods and interaction.
"The results lead us to conclude that workplaces that provide positive environments that foster interpersonal trust and quality personal relationships create the most committed and productive employees," says Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., the lead researcher on the study.
According to business strategist Courtney Anderson, J.D., M.B.A., "Outstanding leadership today means much more than just doing your job. Success is creating an environment that fosters happy, committed, productive team members."
Anderson explains that reinvigorating workplaces by enhancing trust and employee commitment does not have to be difficult. The biggest challenge, she says, "is making the time to truly change in our overscheduled, instant access competitive work environments. With a little know-how, it can be easy to evolve workplace well being and respond to these compelling research results."
Some of Anderson's answers for fostering corporate purpose and trust can be presented in three categories: environment, management and leadership.
-- Provide Environmental Support: Great employers manage their physical
environments as much as the workload. For example, studies at Rutgers
and Texas A&M universities have proven that something as simple as
adding flowers to the environment enhances moods, social interaction
and on-the-job creativity and productivity. A previous Harvard study
confirmed that flowers have an energizing effect on people at work.
Other managers succeed by encouraging rewarding opportunities, such as
participating in a local cause marketing program or simply having
monthly team lunches or team-building exercises.
-- Practice "Uneventful Management": Be ready for crises but, on a daily
basis, present yourself to your team and others as prepared, calm and
assertive. While there will evidently be unexpected circumstances that
require modifications and change, one's leadership abilities can help
instill loyalty and trust. Honest, direct communications are both
expected and respected, and you should make time to reach out to your
team on a regular basis to keep them informed of progress and issues
that they may face down the road.
-- Exude Leadership: Employees commit to leaders who demonstrate three
qualities: confidence, credibility and flexibility. Engage in
substantive self-evaluation, acknowledge your weaknesses and improve
The new Harvard research also found that employee happiness is positively and significantly affected by trust and identification with one's co-workers. Further, the greater the level of purpose one attributes to his or her work correlates to a greater commitment to the organization. The same is true for the level of trust the employer has cultivated among its employees. Productive employees are a result of a winning combination of trust and support.
"Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with complex, capital-intensive innovations that we miss the solutions right in front of us," says Anderson, who also says that a healthy work environment is a two-way street and encourages employees to turn their cubicles into you-bicles. "Doing little things like adding flowers to your workspace or taking a few extra minutes to get to know your co-workers will make you happier at work."
About Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D.
Dr. Nancy Etcoff is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard University Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative, and is a practicing psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry where she is the Director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being. At Harvard, she currently teaches a course entitled "The Science of Happiness."
About Courtney Anderson, J.D., M.B.A.
Dubbed "the workplace relationship expert," Ms. Anderson is an attorney, author, internationally renowned business strategist, television media personality and legal analyst. She is a motivational and keynote speaker in all areas of leadership, personal empowerment and employment law. She holds a B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, a J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law and an M.B.A. from the Texas A&M University System.