The Power of Respect to Boost Employee Productivity

Does productivity increase when employees feel respected? An unintentional finding in the classic Hawthorne experiments points to yes. In the late 1920s/early 1930s, engineers at Western Electric tested their theory that better lighting would improve productivity of factory workers. To do so, they walled off part of the factory floor and kept working conditions the same there, except for stronger illumination.

Or so they thought. In his 1964 business classic “Managerial Breakthrough,” J.M. Juran describes the differences in the regular factory floor and the experimental space: “In the big room, the employees were forbidden to talk to each other — conversation was regarded as a drag on productivity; in the ‘laboratory’ they could talk to their heart’s content, and did. In the big room, they were subjected to a long catalogue of petty disciplines; not so in the ‘laboratory.’ In the big room, they were nobody. . . but in the ‘laboratory’ these nameless operators suddenly acquired status; engineers and managers addressed them by name, asked them how Jimmy’s cold was getting on, explained the project, and otherwise treated them as members of the team. The engineers never dreamed that these ‘little’ things might have more effect on productivity than something as important (to an engineer) as lighting.”

In fact, productivity in the ‘laboratory’ far outstripped that of the control group on the regular factory floor. When the lighting was reduced to its previous level, those productivity numbers remained impressively high.

The behavioral scientists involved noted that a major difference between the control subjects and the factory workers in the experimental space was a sense of respect. The sorts of liberties and trust that engineers took for granted represented a major step up for the work experience of those working on the shop floor.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that when you treat employees like adults, they act like adults. That sense of respect creates engaged and productive employees.



Helping Employees Adapt to Change

Handling change at your company can be tough. Whether the change is big or small, though, employees deserve to be aware and informed. Communication is key here, and good communication can be the difference between a smooth transition and a chaotic leap.

Through our research and client work, we’ve found that there are several tried and true tactics to help employees during change. Here are six Best Practices from the Tribe vault that can help you calm the masses:

1) Respect for employees

The most effective change communications are built on a foundation of respect for the individual. Think about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were impacted by this, how would you want to be treated?

2) Knowledge is power

Foreshadow the change as early as possible. You may want to wait until you know every detail before you communicate, but in our experience employees prefer to know earlier, even if there are gaps in the information. Which is why…

3) It’s OK to not have all the answers

Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them now. What causes more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something is afoot and management isn’t telling them about it. We advice clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll tell you when I do” or “I can’t share that information, but I can tell you such and such.”

4) Acknowledge the Two Big Fears

In the workplace, stress usually comes from two places: “Will the change make my job more difficult?” and “Will I lose my job?”. We encourage our clients to open dialogue about both.

5) Recognize individual differences

Each employee is unique, and they won’t have the same psychological or emotional reactions. Employees also process information differently. It’s helpful to offer communications in a wide range of channels from brochures to emails to face-to-face interactions.

6) Trust trumps all 

Your most valuable asset in any change is the trust your employees already have in company management. If your company has built a strong equity of trust in leadership, your job as a change manager is that much easier.

Three Easy Ways to Increase Visibility Across Silos

Breaking down silos is a hot topic right now, and with good reason. Reducing silos within companies can have numerous perks including increasing efficiencies, collaboration and innovation, to name a few. Beyond business improvements, the simple benefit of human connection among employees can go a long way in improving employee engagement as a whole. The game of silos can be a tough one to tackle, but certainly not an impossible feat. Here are three simple steps to take towards breaking down silos.

1. Provide insight on the work being done in other silos. Through our recent national study with employees of large companies, we’ve found that employees want a way to see into silos. If employees aren’t aware of the great work being done by their peers outside of their department/location/business unit, its much more confortable to remain in their bubbles. One Tribe-recommended method for showcasing work across silos is through an internal employee magazine. As a great source for showcasing peer work and employee spotlights, internal magazines are a great tool for building connections across silos.

2. Give employees the tools they need to identify the right collaboration partners. Through our research we also found that respondents said it’s not easy getting past the first step of figuring out who to contact as potential collaborative partners. Providing a means for determining the thought leaders and experts are in different divisions, locations and job functions are could be the fundamental first step needed for collaboration.

3. Make access to their contact info simple and reliable. The resolution to this issue can be as simple as an easy-to-access employee directory. As found in another Tribe study “Employee Preferences in Internal Communications,” 81 percent of respondents selected an employee directory as one of the features they would like to see in a company intranet. Without the deterrent of searching for contact information, visibility across silos can become a little clearer.

Need help breaking down silos or want to learn more about our recent employee silo research? We would love to help. Contact Tribe here.