In last week’s blog post, I mentioned Gallup’s latest report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, which states that millennials struggle to find good jobs that engage them. Only 29% of employed millennials reported they were engaged at work.  As outlined in my previous post, employee engagement starts at the beginning with recruiting and onboarding.  Once you have the right millennial on the bus, and in the right seat, what’s next?

Attending to people’s well-being makes a difference

Effective leaders understand how to maintain a supportive environment where employees are not only safe but are also allowed to bring forth their best efforts and to thrive. By mastering this, leaders are equipped to improve the quality of work life for their employees. For example, in a recent study, exceptional federal leaders “fostered a shared sense of ownership among everyone on their team by clearly communicating the team’s purpose, repeatedly soliciting their ideas, and proactively supporting the team through good times and bad. In a risk-averse culture like our federal government, rank-and-file employees need that support and top-line cover” to help maintain their sense of well-being.

The influence of psychological flexibility on mental health and absence rates

An experiment looking at psychological flexibility examined call center representatives for a financial services organization in two different locations. One location underwent a work reorganization intervention following the principles of participative action research (the PAR group). The other served as a control group. The PAR group displayed improved employee mental health and reduced absenteeism compared with the control group. “People who had higher levels of psychological flexibility perceived that they had greater levels of job control as a result of the intervention, and it was this greater perception of control that led these people to experience even greater improvements in absence rates and mental health.” Frank W. Bond, Paul E. Flaxman, and David Bunce conclude that interventions increasing job control can be fruitful in improving people’s mental health and lowering absence rates.

Balancing productivity and well-being is the way ahead

How do I suggest that leaders move forward? Organizations that choose to hold themselves responsible for employee well-being are more likely to attract and retain enlightened individuals compared with organizations that don’t. When people feel good about themselves and their contributions, they’ll want to stick around. Three suggested actions to consider include:

  1. Design jobs for productivity AND balance. I encourage all leaders to design work that doesn’t overtax employees to the point that it causes physical or mental harm. Reduce waste and reduce rework. Reducing waste and rework reduces stress. If people don’t have to spend as much time to get their work done, you put them in a better position to be productive and balanced. Give people tools that won’t frustrate them. Information technology tools are often a source of frustration at work. Anything that has to be done more than once is not good for productivity. Design work and tools so tasks can be done right the first time.
  2. Realize and demonstrate that productivity does not increase with the number of hours worked. There will be a cost when you push people too hard and that will ultimately cost the organization. Effective leaders understand that. Those who continue to push harder are not concerned about turnover. The most powerful message is to have senior leaders model behaviors that concurrently embrace wellness and productivity.
  3. Show a genuine interest in people. This interest doesn’t have to be limited to work goals. If a person wants to learn about something that’s not under their job description, there should be some flexibility between the supervisor and employee to figure out a way to integrate those personal interests with the job in a way that benefits the company. Even if you can’t figure out a way to work it into the job description, at least you’ve demonstrated the interest. People feel better when they feel respected and treated as a whole person. Considering the person as more than an employee shows that leader’s holistic mindset.












DR. MARTA WILSON is the founder of The LEAP Enterprise, best-selling author, creator of the LEAP app, an industrial-organizational psychologist, and the CEO of Transformation Systems, Inc. (TSI). Marta has dedicated her career to leadership consultancy while serving as board member, author, catalyst, coach, mentor, researcher, speaker, trainer, volunteer, and fundraiser. With a passion to share proven strategies that drive client results, Marta has authored several business books including LEAP, Energized Enterprise, Everybody’s Business, Leaders in Motion and the Transformation Desktop Guide. Specializing in leadership effectiveness, Marta holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in industrial and organizational psychology from Virginia Tech and a B.A. in academic psychology from the University of Tennessee.