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Bringing joy to the workplace

A Google search of the phrase “My job makes me . . .” shows Gisborne people use descriptors such as “miserable”, “suicidal”, “anxious” and “angry”, said inspirational speaker Karin Volo during a recent presentation.

Hosted by chartered accounting and advisory service BDO, the personal and corporate development specialist’s talk included themes such as workplace culture changes that help optimise employee engagement, and ways of bringing more positivity into people’s lives.

According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 71 percent of New Zealand employees were disengaged in their jobs, she said. While this was below the global average of 85 percent, it was still a high level of disengagement.

Disengagement cost companies billions of dollars. People often felt like they were a cog in the wheel in an organisation and that they didn’t matter. She quoted Albert Einstein’s observation: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

“I believe there is a new way of thinking when it comes to business,” she said. “Our purpose is to bring joy to the workplace.”

This included a culture of engagement that enhanced motivation and inspiration, and raised confidence and productivity.

A culture of engagement involved trust and leadership, she said.

“Leadership sets the tone at the top for what filters down through the organisation.”

During her research into companies such as Virgin and Puma, which thrived while others folded during 2011-2012, she found positive interaction was key to stimulating employees to make a positive contribution to an organisation.

When Richard Branson’s company Virgin wanted to make changes to its London to Edinburgh train, management asked employees what changes they would like to see.

Puma had a thriving, high performance culture, took positive interaction on board but also had a bigger purpose, Volo found. The company took a holistic approach to being more ecologically sound. It encouraged employee involvement in innovation and a sense of ongoing improvement.

Focus on the company’s purpose rather than profits, said Volo.

“Purpose-driven companies build business confidence and this drives involvement.”

A workplace culture of engagement was based on trust, she said.

“Trust is a new way of doing business. High trust in organisations means the speed of getting things is quicker because people trust each other.”

Low trust, which entailed resistance, sat at one end of the spectrum. At the opposite end was high trust and collaboration. Points on the spectrum that ranged from the low trust end, rolled through scepticism to a wait-and-see attitude in the middle, to experimenter and co-creator towards the high-trust end.

Volo drew on the neuroscience of trust to make her point. The hormone cortisol was linked to fear, uncertainty and the compulsion to have to always be right. On the opposite side was the trust network in which the hormone oxytocin was present in the event of transparency, understanding, shared success and truth-telling, she said. This network helped activate higher thinking.

Trust led to confidence which led to engagement and high performance.

“The quality of collaboration depends on relationships, which is dependent on conversations.”

Volo outlined five keys that helped optimise worker engagement, enhanced workplace culture, and boosted productivity and profits.

These were collaboration, creativity, connection, celebration and contribution.

When people felt connected with an organisation there was a feeling of family within it, she said of collaboration. Take care of customers but cultivate a sense of belonging and of working together for the benefit of everything, she said.

“Everything” encompassed people, the planet and profits.

An example of creativity in the workplace was Puma, which encouraged employee involvement in innovation and a sense of continual improvement.

Connection was about values and people. It entailed an emotional connection with the company.

“When employees love their jobs, they’ll be more productive.”

It was important to recognise and extol wins along the way, she said of celebration.

The fifth C, contribution, had implications that went beyond the business.

“We want to feel that what we do matters.

“When you have the five principles at a high level, something starts to happen.”

Along with the five Cs she talked about the six Ps: purpose, passion, people, productivity, profits and a positive impact.

Empower individuals to want to be engaged, and create a culture for individuals to be proactive, she said.

Empower people to ask themselves, “Did I do my best” to set goals, to make progress towards reaching their own goals, to be happy, to find meaning, to build positive relationships, and to be fully engaged.

One useful tool Volo found was as effective in business as it was at home was to ask: “What have you done in past week, or today, you would like to be recognised for?”

“It makes you feel appreciated, it boosts self-esteem.”

An attitude of gratitude also had positive effects. She recommended reflecting daily on three things from the day to be grateful for.

“Do this before you go to sleep. It has lots of positive effects.

“The more you are grateful for, the more good things come into your life.”

“CHIEF JOY BRINGER”: Engagement expert Karin Volo (centre) with BDO Gisborne’s Pete Jarratt and Kylee Potae. Picture supplied