EXECUTIVE BRIEFING Align Energy to Maximize Productivity

By Dori Meinert Sep 1, 2014

0914cover.jpgA majority of business leaders aren’t working at their best energy level, which translates into a loss of productivity, says Theresa Welbourne, a researcher with the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

Of the 540 business leaders who participated in the April 2014 Leadership Pulse study, 61 percent reported working below what they determined was their optimal energy level, and 21 percent said they were working above their best energy level. Only 18 percent reported working at their most productive energy level.

While working above one’s best energy level might seem like a positive situation, it’s actually counterproductive. “People can only stay so long at those higher levels, and if they don’t recover, they’re making mistakes or they get frustrated and they leave the organization,” Welbourne says.

When leaders work below their best energy level, they avoid challenges and get bored, she says.

The study participants were asked to rate their energy level at work that day and the level at which they are at their best. The difference between these two numbers predicts performance, she says. Those with a gap of more than one point are considered at risk of poor performance.

HR professionals, salespeople and engineers are among those most at risk of poor performance because of their energy gaps, according to the study. HR professionals burn out because they’re always putting out fires and don’t get the sense of accomplishment that often comes with completing a project, Welbourne says. They often don’t feel appreciated.

About 70 percent of study participants said they struggle with a lack of direction. A common complaint: “Everybody keeps giving me more to do, but nobody tells me what’s more important.”

To help, HR can coach managers to talk to their employees to sort out priorities, Welbourne says. Many wellness programs also offer mindfulness training that can help with energy alignment.

Ethical Culture Is a Top Priority

Creating a culture of ethics and respect emerged as the top goal for compliance training in a recent survey of 763 compliance and HR professionals.

Ninety percent of the respondents cited culture-building as a primary objective, according to the survey conducted by an independent research company for Navex Global, which provides compliance software and services.

That’s slightly more than the 89 percent who said complying with laws and regulations is a key goal. Survey participants were allowed to choose multiple goals.

The results may signal a shift in thinking. Historically, the primary objective for many companies has been to comply with legal requirements and to provide a legal defense against lawsuits.

The shift reflects a broader awareness of the need to help employees understand what it means to act ethically, wrote Ingrid Fredeen and Mary Bennett, co-authors of Navex Global’s 2014 Ethics and Compliance Training Benchmark Report, which included the survey results.

But it also points to a major challenge for corporate leaders.

“Creating a culture of ethics and respect tends to require greater investment of time and resources” than simply complying with laws and regulations, they wrote.

Among the top challenges cited by survey participants were limited hours for training and difficulties measuring the effectiveness of the training programs.

While 75 percent said their employees are getting the training they need, 54 percent were concerned that supervisors aren’t receiving enough training to help them avoid missteps. Forty-six percent said undertrained supervisors are at risk of mishandling or downplaying complaints or reports from employees.

Three-quarters of organizations are providing employees with five hours or less of training annually. Training topic priorities reported for the next two to three years are ethics/code of conduct and workplace harassment.

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