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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
As more corporations see the benefit of integrating work and life into a more complete package, spirituality has risen to top of researchers' and human resources professional's minds. In an attempt to reduce stress and maintain high levels of motivation and satisfaction, top management is looking at the value in meeting workers' spiritual needs.
Spiritual well-being correlates positively with a number of indicators of psychological adjustment and overall well-being. Researchers Wolf and Stevens (2001) found that higher levels of spirituality are linked to "marital satisfaction, physical health, social adjustment, possession of strong coping skills, and resiliency in times of stress and personal crisis" (p. 67). However, until around 2006, research on the effects of spirituality and its overarching ties to job satisfaction have remained scarce. While the topic is still in its infancy compared to other aspects of satisfaction literature, spirituality looks likely to continue as a subject of increasing interest in the corporate mindset as well as the healthcare profession (Koenig, 2008, p. 22).
The notion of spirituality in the corporate and work settings is a relatively undiscovered research area. Its connections with productivity, worker well-being, and job satisfaction have come to light in the literature on management only recently (Ashmos & Duchon, 2000). Previous studies conducted in the workplace pertaining to spirituality were exploratory in nature and few in number (Milliman, Czaplewski, & Ferguson, 2001).
Spirituality, as defined by Harold Koenig (2008) in Medicine, Religion, and Health, is "a personal relation to the transcendent" (p. 16). Koenig's work has focused primarily on the healthcare industry's relationship with spirituality, religion, and well-being, but his definition is clear and straightforward compared to other classifications. The notion of spirituality is complex and multidimensional - something that is subjective and difficult to measure - thus the corporate world may have a difficult time measuring and otherwise characterizing why it is so important to employees. However, as the research on the subject of job satisfaction and its link to spiritual matters multiplies, the definition has been refined significantly, down to a measureable variable and one appropriate for conducting research (Koenig, p. 22).
Early research linking the overall psychological well-being to both spirituality and job satisfaction (Adams et al., 2000) provided little empirical evidence to describe the relationship between these two variables. The lack of support is surprising given that spirituality and spiritual well-being has been described as central to an employee's overall wellness. To remedy this researchers Robert, Young, and Kelly (2006) utilized the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS) and the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form (MSQ) to examine the direct relationship between two-hundred workers throughout seven different industries and their levels of job satisfaction as predicted by their spiritual well-being.
What they found, based on the SWBS construct sub-scale was that Spiritual Well-Being (SWB) accounted for 10.4% of job satisfaction variability (as recorded by the MSQ) whereas Existential Well Being (EWB) predicted approximately 21% (R2 = .209) and Religious Well Being (RWB) only explained 3.3% of variation in job satisfaction. While they did find a significant correlation for each of the sub-constructs, the spiritual well-being subscale indicated that SWB is important to adult workers, but that EWB is twice as meaningful in job satisfaction levels. Therefore, this finding may indicate that adult workers who report meaning and purpose in life will also report high levels of job satisfaction. Still, employees with high levels of spiritual well-being will be more satisfied than those with low levels of SWB.
To compliment this work, Clark et al. (2007) studied the link between levels of spirituality in hospice workers and their reported job satisfaction. A survey of 215 hospice interdisciplinary team (IDT) members revealed a 22% variation in job satisfaction as explained by spirituality. They also used the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS), but correlated it with the Job Satisfaction Scale. While statistically significant bivariate relationships were found, the researchers concluded that "job satisfaction is more likely to be related to the transformation of one's spirituality into the process of integrating spirituality at work and self-actualization rather than spirituality having a direct impact on the job satisfaction" (p. 1326).
On a side note, an interesting fact from the Clark et al. study was that Protestants are more likely to integrate spirituality into the workplace than groups of people who defined their spirituality as "other" on the SWBS.
In 2008, an article in Journal of Gerontological Nursing looked at the effectiveness of a spirit at work program in long-term care. The research provided strong support that the program "increased spirit at work, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational culture (particularly teamwork and morale)." The study suggested that recognizing spirituality at work is a relatively inexpensive way to enhance the work satisfaction of employees. (V, K., & BJ, S., 2008). All manner of conclusions about this could be used by human resource professionals and upper manage to meet the needs of a changing workforce.
Another promising study in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly (Benda, DiBlasio, & Pope, 2008) examined a random sample of 600 homeless male veterans, aged 46 to 65, who served in the military during the Vietnam War. Among the strongest predictors of whether the sample population would relapse into troubles with alcohol and drugs was their level of spiritual well-being. It should be noted that readmission (or lack thereof) into the treatment program was also related heavily to the strength of family relationships, friendships, and work satisfaction.
The findings surrounding job satisfaction and the variability explained by spirituality are significant. While different studies have found a range of correlations, it should be noted that it is conclusive that spiritual well-being plays a role in the way people interact with their jobs. At the low end, spiritual well-being accounts for approximately 10% of job satisfaction and as high as 22%. These numbers should give managers and human resources pause.
The lesson behind these findings is that to improve employee commitment or engagement, managers should not rely entirely on extrinsic forms of motivation (i.e., monetary). Employees are searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in the work itself, which if discovered, leads towards higher levels of productivity and positive levels of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB).
Corporations can improve both their bottom line and the health of their employees by focusing on the inner lives of the people that work for them. Top leadership must provide a culture that encourages a high level of spiritual support and exploration for all employees (Morrison, Burke & Greene, 2003). However, if spiritual well-being is treated as just another method to improve productivity it will not work.
Adams, T. B., Bezner, J. R., Drabbs, M. E., Zambaratio, R. J., & Steinhardt, M. A. (2000).
Conceptualization and measurement of the spiritual and psychological dimensions of
wellness in a college population. Journal of American College Health, 48, 165-18
Benda, B., DiBlasio, F., & Pope, S. (2008). Spiritual Well-Being, Relationships, and Work Satisfaction in the Treatment of Homeless Veterans with Alcohol/Other Drug Problems. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 24(1), 109-124.
Borkowski, N. (2005). Organizational behavior in healthcare. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Clark, L., Leedy, S., McDonald, L., Muller, B., Lamb, C., Mendez, T., et al. (2007, December). Spirituality and job satisfaction among hospice interdisciplinary team members. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 10(6), 1321-1328.
Coombs, A. (2002). The living workplace. New York: Warwick House.
Morrison, E.E. 3rd, Burke, & L, Greene (2007, 2007 Summer). Meaning in motivation: does your organization need an inner life?. Journal Of Health And Human Services Administration, 30(1), 98-115.
Robert, T., Young, J., & Kelly, V. (2006, April). Relationships Between Adult Workers' Spiritual Well-Being and Job Satisfaction: A Preliminary Study. Counseling and Values, 50(3), 165-175.
V, K., & BJ, S. (2008, October). The promise of spirit at work: increasing job satisfaction and organizational commitment and reducing turnover and absenteeism in long-term care. Journal Of Gerontological Nursing, 34(10), 17.
Wolf, C. T., & Stevens, P. (2001). Integrating religion and spirituality in marriage and family counseling. Counseling and Values, 46, 66-75.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A popular myth outside the closely linked passages of Hollywood is that actors are “discovered.” The truth is nearly always less enthralling. More often than not, actors have worked hard to catch the eye of a producer or casting agent, laboring to grab a single audition for a soap commercial (Irish Spring perhaps?) or taking a small role in a horror movie rather than being discovered randomly one evening shopping for detergent. Even the superstars who reign from successful families, such as Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, have reported having to work diligently for their achievements (Us, 2009). While nepotism is often cited as a winning cause for actors “making it” there is something more. In fact, individuals with the most talent are not always the most successful. There is a force beyond aptitude – something even greater than nepotism (McNatt & Judge, 2004) – which springs people to the top levels of performance. The actors that have landed the most successful gigs were expected to succeed. This motivation technique, aptly named the Pygmalion effect is a special tenet of self-fulfilling prophecy.
From a meta-analysis performed on this effect, we know that in certain contexts the results are strong (McNatt, 2000, p. 314), including sales environments (Schulman, 1999), military settings, and with groups of auditors (McNatt & Judge, 2004). The question remains then: why do so many of those with high ability remain at the bottom while less-talented individuals rise to the top? Expectancy effects are on par with pure self-determination and ability. To be fair, human motivation is a complex matter. Still, there is a growing consignment of research which suggests that the most successful folks are not only hardworking and capable, but they are expecting and expected to succeed. This expectation has been internalized, but harkens from outside, often from an authority figure (e.g., supervisor or parent) and brings the third driving element into light (Schulman, 1999). An individual’s desire to accomplish something is derived from a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Self-fulfilling prophecy theory proposes that “people’s behaviors are consistent with their expectations and those behaviors in turn influence outcomes” (McNatt & Judge, p. 315). Akin to that, self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1982) affirms that to gain information people use a variety of sources and devise judgments based on their ability to perform tasks at expected levels. These judgments then guide how much effort and diligence people use to obtain the anticipated level of performance. It follows that if a person believes he or she can accomplish a task, his or her actions will follow those beliefs and increase the chances of the belief reaching fruition. Why is it then that this straightforward, logical examination has not reached business culture to the degree that it seems it should?
Monday, August 10, 2009
The title of the business book “Built to Last” conjures up images of marble statues or empire-building and that’s exactly what the authors were trying to infer, but with an unexpected twist. In their bestselling book, professors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wanted to figure out what factors differentiate so-called visionary companies from the rest of the crowd. But what are visionary companies in the first place?
As Porras and Collins describe them, “visionary companies are the premier institutions – the crown jewels—in their industries, widely admired by their peers and having a long track record of making a significant impact on the world around them” (p. 1). So what separates great companies like 3M, Hewlett-Packard, or Sony, from the rest? As Collins and Porras found out, the answer to the question was counterintuitive.
The authors spent six years researching and comparing the practices of eighteen visionary companies to those of a matched set of good, though not great, companies. Using the research equivalent of “genetic twin studies,” their fundamental observation was that average companies are driven by the power of "or." For instance, you can have either short term profits or long term growth; either stability or progress. Visionary companies, in contrast, embrace the power of "and," i.e., you preserve the core and stimulate progress.
To make sure their conclusions were well received, the authors methodically explained how great companies build foundations that embrace seemingly contradictory goals. The great companies the authors studied, contrary to conventional wisdom, are not profit focused at their core but rather, they are “value” focused. These values are a sort of heart, around which leaders grow the company. Great companies such as Disney, Wal-Mart, Merck, Ford, Hewlett Packard, 3M, and Johnson and Johnson all exuded this yielding to foundational doctrine.
Among the core myths that Collins and Porras shattered are that visionary companies must start with a great product and be pushed into the future by a charismatic leader. Instead the majority of visionary companies were characterized by a total lack of an initial business plan or key idea and by remarkably self-effacing leaders. Along with that, great companies foster an almost cult-like devotion to a "core ideology" or identity, and active indoctrination of employees into "ideological commitment" to the company (e.g., Nordstrom’s). Workers who do not mesh with the company will definitely not fit and be “ejected like a virus” according to the authors.
When it comes to organizational development, Collins and Porras’ insights are invaluable. For an OD consultant, all well-researched knowledge is power and the authors provide key guidelines for working with specific companies.
Focused on planned change, the practice of organizational development seeks to help organizations achieve greater effectiveness. If a consultant understands the core ideology of a business, then he or she is more readily equipped to speak the language of the company. In some ways, this makes working with a visionary company either very easy or incredibly difficult.
Consultants who know themselves well would have to turn down certain jobs if they realized their personality would not mix with the doctrine of the company they are trying to serve. Again, since this is usually spelled out in visionary companies, it would be easy to accept or reject an offer once the consultant knows the limitations and strengths of his or her personality when compared with those of the company values.
As a detailed, conceptual framework, I thoroughly enjoyed reading and digesting “Built to Last.” I mostly took to heart the notion of starting a business as a way to grow within a productive community and as a way to provide for our substantive needs. As a future OD practitioner, I would highly recommend this work to any consultant or business leader.
However, what is unfortunate about the book is that it does not leave much room for companies which are already founded. It would seem that to truly build a long-standing and exceptional corporation, you would have to pretty much start over and found a new company. What happens to companies which were poorly founded or recently lost their charismatic leader? It would seem, and is probably the case that these companies will flounder and eventually pass on.
Another interesting insight from “Built to Last” is using core ideology as a litmus test to figure out if employees truly understand their company and its core values. Simply, if you ask them and they know, then it’s safe to say the company they work for is a good fit. People at 3M, Nordstrom’s, Disney, and Merck would more than likely be able to expound on what their company believes. Others probably wouldn’t know and might not even care.
This type of knowledge, at least for me, is of great value. In one instant you would be able to judge whether or not the company, and its employees, were on a meaningful path or not. With this information, the path to helping guide a company into a longer future would be easier to discern.
In the end, “Built to Last” discovered some of the most important truths of the twentieth century corporation. This book will be utilized for decades to come, partly because the authors developed their strategy on the same principles as the visionary companies they studied. I personally appreciated the author’s due diligence and vested interest in the difference between average companies and those that change the world.