While a healthy paycheck contributes to employee satisfaction, money won’t keep the best employees if other more important aspects of their employment are not met, according to one of the nation’s principal authorities on leadership science. “If the workplace environment doesn’t fit with the conditions where the brain can thrive, they probably won’t hold on to their best employees for long,” says Don Rheem, author of Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience that Drives High-Performance Cultures and CEO of E3 Solutions (www.e3solutions.com). “Money satisfies, but it has very little impact on daily behavior. Far more impactful are things that money can’t buy; things a responsive employer should be providing every day.”
Rheem says neuroscience has mapped the ideal conditions that, when addressed, allow the brain to thrive and operate much closer to its full capacity. These conditions can make employees more productive, healthier, and happier in the workplace.
Rheem says companies that follow his science-based approach show a 30% increase in engagement in just one year and a 75% increase in high-performing staff in just four years. He suggests four places where employers and leaders in a company should focus their efforts:
Encourage Trusted Relationships – Employees thrive in a work culture that promotes trust and caring for each other, just as early humans learned that survival in a dangerous world was far more likely in clan or tribe than it was in isolation. “Since today most people spend a majority of their waking hours at work, employers that promote a pro-social workplace can reap hardwired metabolic benefits,” Rheem says. “This will outpace pay for performance and other monetary rewards in the long run.”
Help Employees Find Meaning & Purpose – In the past, the security of a job was enough to make employees show up for work every day. But today, it is not unusual for an employee to change jobs many times during a career. If an employer wants to maintain higher retention levels, they should strive to provide a deeper connection for employees to their work, their coworkers, or to the mission and vision of the organization.
Create Challenging Work – High performers – those upon whom great companies are built – thrive in a workplace ecosystem that includes positive challenge. “Leaders need to realize the benefit isn’t simply from the challenge – it is in the recognition and celebration that comes with successfully crossing the finish line,” Rheem says. “The key point is for leaders to set goals that are within reach, and to recognize the victory before rushing into the next challenge.”
Give Employees Authority to Innovate & Take Risks – A hierarchical workplace predicated on fear and distrust stifles innovation and focuses employees on daily job survival rather than on performance excellence. A workplace grounded in trust and employee empowerment, however, sets the stage for individuals to take risks and make mistakes without the fear of a punitive response. Innovation and risk-taking may not motivate every employee, but the sense that management respects and has confidence in employees supports a healthier culture where high performers love to stretch and challenge themselves.
“Employers who support these workplace conditions will give employees more reasons to feel wanted, trusted, and supported,” Rheem says. “This, in turn, will positively impact employee engagement, retention, and company morale.”
Don Rheem is the author of Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience that Drives High-Performance Cultures, is CEO of E3 Solutions (www.e3solutions.com), a provider of employee workplace metrics and manager training that allow organizations to build engaged, high-performance cultures. Rheem, one of the nation’s principle authorities on leadership science, uses empirically validated research to consult with leaders at all levels within an organization. He is a former science advisor to Congress and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.