Seventy-five dollars per week. That's the per person productivity loss in companies with "psychologically distressed" employees. With half of Americans reporting "stress, fatigue, irritability and anger," the impact on a 500 person company totals over $1.9 million per year.

Studies demonstrate there's a disconnect between employees and their managers. Both groups were asked to rank 10 job characteristics. You'll notice that none of the employees' three biggest priorities make the managers' Top 5:

Employees seek:

  1. Appreciation for their work
  2. Feeling part of things
  3. Sympathetic help on personal issues
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages

Managers believe employees desire:

  1. Good wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion/growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work

To help improve employee morale, HR managers should look beyond obvious tangibles like salary, bonuses and benefit packages, and consider three organizational changes that can make a significant difference.

  1. Recognize your staff. Showing appreciation for your employees doesn't mean big ceremonies with expensive prizes and certificates. Recognition can be as simple as making a conscious effort to praise your employees a couple of times a week. By making the praise directed and specific, you demonstrate that you are aware of their contributions.
  2. Demonstrate each employee's value. Beyond recognition, try to connect each employee's efforts to larger achievements. An engineering company, for example, might calculate the number of lives they save by building a plant that makes life-saving drugs. Not every job is glamourous, and it's easy for cubicle dwellers to forget that their laborsmake a difference in the world. Remind them.
  3. Provide support. Create an internal support system where your employees can vent about their stresses in a judgment-free environment. Whether that's through a mentorship program, a weekly small group meeting or a manager-employee session, allowing your employees to release stress will help build a closer team.
22 March 2011

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