The new research I am about to summarize could not be more important to a company’s
success. Taken as a whole it tells us that the more stressful the job, the lower the employee engagement; the lower the employee engagement the less efforts succeed.
By extension, if a company is not focused on resolving stress, it’s not succeeding fully. Resolve stress in a floundering business unit and it’s more likely it will begin to thrive. Resolve stress in a unit that’s just hitting its numbers and it’s likely to double the expected result. Resolve stress where employees excel and they’ll likely achieve what’s never been done. Here’s the research that supports all this.
Finding #1: Companies that achieve high employee engagement outperform their competition across all business metrics. Those in the top half of employee engagement nearly double their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half (Gallup, 2016). Those at the 99th percentile have four times the success rate of those at the first percentile. Business units that measure high in employee engagement generate 20% more in sales and are 21% more profitable than business units who measure low in engagement. Add to that, the fact that employee engagement is positively correlated with job satisfaction (Bin Shmailan, 2016) and employee retention (Lado and Wilson, 1994).
Finding #2: Only 24 percent of nearly 600 managers surveyed by the Harvard Business Review considered most of their employees highly engaged (HBR, 2013). Yikes! Add to it the finding that business units with disengaged employees suffer nearly twice the absenteeism and 31 percent more turnover (Harter, 2006). This suggests that 3 out of 4 business units are either failing or lackluster, falling well short of the level of success they would achieve if everyone was fully engaged.
Finding #3: It turns out that stress and disengagement are highly correlated. Nearly 60 percent of employees experiencing high levels of stress are disengaged. That means if you’re on a project team of ten, only four are swinging for the fence; the rest are striking out. It’s even worse with sales people, who research shows are much more likely to be chronically stressed (Sagar, 1994). In contrast, only one in ten employees with low stress levels are disengaged and half of this group claimed to be highly engaged (Willis Towers Watson, 2014).
So here is the million-dollar question: Is there something that can be done quickly and effectively to cut the stress employees experience.
Finding #4: There is now a solution to stress that neuroscience has identified that goes far beyond conventional stress management. Here is what science now knows.
- During three decade of stress management programs, stress in America actually went up 30 percent. This was largely due to the fact that much of stress management focuses on changing stress-related behavior, and most of these behaviors are hard-wired into the brain.
- There are biological factors associated with stress, meaning if we have a problem with stress, it has more to do with genetics than the job. Genetics and past traumas can wire our brain for a hyperactive stress response system, meaning fight, flight or freeze reactions, the latter two of which lead to disengagement. Thus, the solution to the problem of stress requires changing the way the brain is wired.
- Breakthroughs in neuroscience over the last 15 years have established the capacity of a human being to down-regulate the stress gene and rewire the brain, through a mindfulness approaches that change mental attitude, and in as little as 8-weeks The technical term for the rewiring process is positive neuroplasticity. It not only quiets stress reactions, but also amplifies the higher brain function that predicts success. “Mindfulness” simply refers to a definable practice that facilitates the fundamental shift in attitude that relates to stressors with the level of calm, creativity, and optimism that solves problems, instead of reacting stressfully.
ProAttitude, a human performance firm with programs that facilitate positive neuroplasticity has trained more than 4,000 people in high pressure companies, cutting stress levels by 40% and raising people’s performance, creativity, and well-being. Clearly, positive neuroplasticity should be on every manager’s agenda.