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“Do I Stay or Do I go?”

You have just laid off three employees and the remaining staff are stressed and fearful that they may be next or they are stressing over how they will manage the increased workload. How are you going to maintain or create an environment that keeps morale up? According to the research conducted by Dr. Thomas lee from the University of Washington, 63% of voluntary turnovers are precipitated by some kind of shocking event. Since we usually know what we don’t want sooner than what we do want; you definitely do not want a bunch of disengaged, stressed out, grumpy people who are absent more and producing less. How do you keep morale up, retain your talent and maintain or improve productivity? Improve your communication. No human relationship, whether it’s a marriage or a corporation, will thrive if the communication breaks down.

Heidi Cowie
Stresschat Inc
As Gregory Smith states in his book Here Today, Here Tomorrow, “If your people don’t know where the company is going, where it’s been or why you’re asking them to do certain things, they can’t be productive.” The most common way employers have to boost morale is to improve communication.

When we couple the effect of a shocking event with the current economic pressures, it becomes critical to the life of the company to communicate with all staff.

I had worked as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company for ten years. The company was owned by a husband and wife team and the relationships with the employees were average-until one Sunday afternoon. I received a phone call from the President advising me the company had been sold and I was now going to be working for the new company. Talk about a shock! I was given no more information and I was told the new National Sales Manager would be in touch. All the staff got the same phone call that Sunday and 99% of us started to look for new employment.

Talent engagement, on-boarding, presenteeism, employee life value- whatever trend you want to follow it all boils down to keeping employees happy and productive. As Branham states, “the need for managers to initiate action to engage and re-engage employees is urgent, and the daily opportunity “to do so is ever-present.”
Back to my story. Our new employer immediately convened for a national sales meeting and when we were introduced to all the head office staff from the President right through to the receptionist. I was quickly promoted and was the Ontario sales manager for the next five years. Our company knew how to retain their talent. During the five years, I saw two people leave for reasons other than money.

According to Saratoga research Institute, 89% of managers believe employees leave for more money and 88% of employees leave for reasons other than money. “ Leigh Branham states in her book The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave “ this dismaying disconnect between what managers believe and the reality-the true root causes of employee disengagement and turnover- is costing businesses billions of dollars a year”.

What was our secret? Why did people stay with our company? The communication was open and encouraged from the President through to the regional managers. If a sales rep had an inspirational idea they could pick up the phone and speak directly to the President.
Being the local sales manager involved being the resident therapist first and then the business manager. Sales reps needed to vent their frustrations or share their happiness and satisfaction. Either way, until that emotional stuff was dealt with, business waited. It had to. Our brains are wired this way. When our emotions run high our ability to think is diminished. Emotions are in the limbic area of the brain and our ability to problem solve is in the cortex region. As long as the limbic portion is firing, our cortex is incapable of formulating thought. This is why presenteeism is such a problem. People are expected to put their personal issues in a sack and keep on working and that expectation is unrealistic and dangerous to moral and motivation. Regardless of the economy, all companies want to outperform their targets but they can’t sustain growth if they lose their talented people. Consistent communication diminishes the fear and stress in the work environment and diminishing or reducing stress is key to morale, productivity, and retention.

A 2009 study by Hewitt Associates showed that the overall physical health and stress levels of engaged employees was better than non-engaged employees. 28% of employees at high engagement employers reported experiencing high stress compared to 39% in organizations with moderate to low engagement.

When asked how much time the employee was absent due to mental or emotional fatigue, people in low engagement organizations took two days off in the last six months compared to one day for people in highly engaged organizations.

Retention and morale can be improved and maintained by ensuring there is adequate and effective communication. Communication builds trust, provides clear direction, and a positive work environment. This in turn, reduces stress and maintains a healthy balance.

Quick Tips

1. Learn to communicate effectively. If communication is not your strength, hire an executive coach. Good communicators are taught not born.

2. Listen. Listening is active not passive. Give people the opportunity to share their success stories and their problems.

3. Lead by being positive. Positive leaders instill trust, hope, a sense of worth and competency in their people.

Heidi Cowie is the founder and President of Stresschat Inc. Contact her at www.stresschat.ca

Financial Stress Takes Heavy Toll in the Workplace

We are all painfully aware of the slumping economy and its effects on our own personal financial circumstances. This has not only affected corporate budgets and spending, but employees are overwhelmed with stress about their own financial security. Financial stress can lead to problems with health and wellness, work-life balance and significantly reduced productivity, as a result of an increasing number of hours spent on personal business during increased work hours.

Philip H. Gennis,
Grant Thornton
The World Health Organization has referred to stress as a worldwide epidemic. A recent poll from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that almost 80% of those surveyed say that the economy is a significant source of stress. With the slumping economy, the number of people experiencing personal financial difficulty has skyrocketed.

The Desjardins Financial Security survey in April 2009 showed that while 85% of Canadians carry a debt load of $25K or less, just over half of self-employed workers claimed their debt was in this bottom category. At the top end of debt levels, only 5% of Canadians at large have more than $50K of debt, compared to 21% of self-employed Canadians who have more than $50K of debt.

A survey released in March 2009 in the U.S. by Lynn Taylor Consulting found that the average employee spends 2.8 hours (168.8 minutes) a day worrying about their personal job security, such as company lay-offs and /or losing their job.

A Microsoft Office survey in 2005 showed that most people actually use 60% or less of available work time. When more than 38,000 people in 200 countries were queried about individual productivity, it showed that even though they were physically at work five days a week, they were only working productively three days.

An Office Team survey of 600 workers in 2007 found that employees spend an average of 36 minutes per day at work on personal tasks. By gender, men take 44 minutes and women 29 minutes, with the 18-34 year old group using the most time. The same survey polled 150 senior executives and found their time to be 43 minutes per day.

A Salary.com survey in 2007 reported that the average employee wastes 20% of their day or 1.7 hours of a typical 8.5 hour work day. Conducting personal business was cited as the third leading time wasting activity.

These surveys did not assume a crisis in the worker’s life. Add financial distress to the scenario and those numbers should increase significantly.

As businesses continue to experience significant losses, employees have lost their sense of financial security. They have problems paying their bills, the values of their homes and retirement savings have dropped and they need support.

What can organizations do to help their staff in this present economic climate? A growing number are making financial experts available to their staff, either through EAP services or through referrals to outside firms and consultants. EAP suppliers have noted an increase in the number of calls related to finances from concerned workers.

According to Philip Gennis, Vice President, Recovery and Reorganization for Grant Thornton Limited, the ability to provide a list of recommended experts and reputable credit counselling agencies would likely be well received. Consultants can be brought in for “lunch and learn” sessions. You can also gather a list of resources available which can be distributed to your staff or posted on your company intranet. Mr. Gennis feels that “basic financial counselling should be provided in-house by employers or at a minimum added to existing EAP programs. This would benefit both the organization and its employees. These days, the adage that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure is more than just a passing application”.

The above information has been provided by Philip H. Gennis, LL.B, CIRP, Vice President, Recovery & Reorganization, Grant Thornton Limited.

NOTE: Philip Gennis will be the featured presenter on the topic “HR’s Role at the Executive Table- Get There & Keep Your Position” at the IPM Toronto Fall Conference on October 29, 2009. For full details, click here

Finding the Wolf within your Flock

Have you ever been a-clue-istic, one without a clue, with regard to reading other people? I have, and as a Behavioural Symptoms Analysis expert here is what I’ve learned.

In April 1994, as a member of the Canadian Forces, I took part in a Prisoner Handling and Tactical Questioning course held at the Defence Intelligence and Security School in Ashford Kent, England. Only a few hours after arrival, I found myself striped naked, placed in a cold cell, and intensely interrogated by a hostile British Warrant Officer.

Jean (JJ) Brun
is President and
Founder of
JJ Communications,
After the interrogation, they informed me of the information they captured. I was amazed by what they knew since I hadn’t answered any of their questions. At that moment, I experienced first hand the world of Behavioural Symptoms Analysis (BSA). I quickly became a student for life, and I have been studying the field of human behaviour ever since.

I believe that until you personally discover or experience an event (a truthful account) for yourself, it is hard to fully grasp and accept its teaching. In other words, a truth spoken is not a truth discovered. I had to discover and personally experience the interrogation process in order to fully grasp the value of BSA and how I could effectively apply this tool to read people and their behaviours.

Surveys in my workshops reveal that we would like to read other people, even though that we do not want to be read. The real value of understanding BSA is in developing the ability to accurately read the messages sent by other people in order to understand them better. Increasing your awareness of BSA practices can give you a starting point to effectively read the messages sent by others.

BSA is the study of the way people act, speak and behave in various circumstances. From this study, you can learn to understand patterns of behaviour that enable you to make predictions and deductions about a person’s real message. Even when silent, people cannot not communicate!

This study is useful for people who ask questions in their daily activities. The behavioural insights provided by BSA create a framework for better understanding the communication that takes place during a conversation/interaction. As a questioner, it also guides you towards arriving at an informed assessment of an individual. In addition, they yield valuable information that can help you evaluate truth and deception in people. Hence, BSA can help you find the “wolf within your flock.”

Communication research by behavioural scientists and psychologists leads to the theory that communication can be broken down into verbal, vocal and non-verbal elements. In a conversation, the verbal element is primarily used for passing information that the speaker wishes to convey to the listener. The vocal element supports the verbal element and may also support the non-verbal element. The non-verbal element primarily reveals attitudes and feelings.

Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, observed these percentages in his famous communication study: 7 percent of communication comes from the verbal element (words), 38 percent from the vocal element (tone of voice), and 55 percent from the non-verbal element (body language).

Mehrabian’s “7%-38%-55% Rule”, refers to cases of expressing feelings or attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). In more fact based conversations, when a person is not talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable. Many people misapply Mehrabian’s when they attempt to apply them to all communication.

The most important point of this study is to understand the process of communication and to develop your skill in interpreting verbal, vocal and non-verbal elements when interacting with others. People naturally talented in these interpretations are often called intuitive. Those who are not as intuitive can misplace their trust and be easily misled.

When observing and evaluating a person, build a model of the person’s normal pattern of behaviour. You can do this by asking non-pertinent questions and looking carefully at their non-verbal communication (NVC) signs.

For example, if a person breaks eye contact when denying having hit your vehicle, it may or may not mean that the person is lying. If breaking eye contact happens in conjunction with a drop in voice tone, and they start fidgeting with their fingers, coughing and hesitating in their answers, where they had been calm and collected before you asked about the dent in your car; then you might consider the person to be untruthful.

A truthful person tends to talk face to face (frontal alignment) in order to see the other person’s gestures, maintain eye contact and appear concerned. An untruthful person tends to turn their whole body away (lack frontal alignment), in part to increase the distance from you and in part to conceal their face. These actions make it easier to break eye contact with you and appear truthful.

More than any other part of NVC, gestures vary greatly from culture to culture and person to person. They are learned by copying as children and are influenced by society, age, gender, dominant role models and personality style. Understanding the Model of Human Behaviour greatly enhances your ability to evaluate truth and deception in people across cultures.

Individuals who are outgoing and task oriented tend to be more dominant and direct in their NVC. They often use big gestures and lean forward with an advancing posture. Individuals who are outgoing and people oriented tend to be more inspiring and influencing in their NVC. They often use expressive gestures with an amusing, friendly posture.

Individuals who are reserved and people oriented tend to be more supportive and sincere in their NVC. They use gentle gestures with a reassuring, calming posture. Individuals who are also reserved and task oriented tend to be more cautious and credible in their NVC. They often use controlled gestures without emotion.

In today’s challenging time, it is increasingly important to be sensitive and observant when it comes to your own body language as it tends to communicate your real message and intention when you interact with others both at work and at home.

Jean (JJ) Brun is President and Founder of JJ Communications, Inc. He can be reached at jean@jjcommunications.com Website: www.jjcommunications.com


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