In business, a company's most valuable asset is CASH. A lot of energy is focused on the management of cash flow by mitigating all risks that impact on this. Some traditional risks that are actively managed include: Currency, Interest Rate, Commodity, Credit, and Systems to name a few. Who is responsible for generating and managing cash flow? Employees! There are broadly two categories of employees:
- Direct contributors, those that are external Client facing selling products and services or those in trading functions.
- Indirect contributors, namely your support services, such as Operations, IT, Legal and Compliance, Finance, Marketing.
What happens if the energy of these individuals diminishes into fear, doom, and gloom? It will impact the individual negatively in their health and well-being. What does this mean for your business productivity and performance? How do you identify and manage this critical risk? Energy Crisis in your most precious asset- your PEOPLE.
Employee Energy Risk Management.
Everything we do is driven by energy. In 2007-2008 13.5 million working days were lost due to stress, according to the UK Health and Safety Executive and, with a 50% increase, these figures could top 20 million in 2009. Absenteeism through stress is growing rapidly and research suggests amounts in US$ billion of lost revenue and productivity. In the UK 50% of visits to medical general practitioners are stress related. Experiences of stress have been known to have a powerful and widespread negative impact upon the health as well as the productivity of an individual and could manifest in:
- Thoughts (e.g. lack of concentration, impact upon self esteem, unable to switch off')
- Emotions (e.g. anxiety, temper control, tearful)
- Behaviour (e.g. low morale, irritability, error in work)
- Physical well being (e.g. IBS, back pain, tension headache)
Stress is just another way in which one expands one's energy and the current economic market conditions require companies to focus on managing this emerging 21st Century risk.
We need stress to survive! Most individuals perform at their best when under moderate level of pressure. We have an inbuilt 'Flight or Fight' mechanism, which helps the body to sense and respond to danger. An individual may notice an increase in the level of anxiety ahead of giving presentations or speaking to an audience. The surge in adrenaline is the stress trigger that helps to motivate the person to perform at their optimum and therefore have a valuable experience. The diagram above illustrates the correlation between the levels of performance relative to the degree of pressure.
It is valuable to recognise that an individual thrives in their performance until they stray beyond the stretch zone in the above chart. Then both the individual and the organisation will suffer negative consequences as noted in above chart. An amount of pressure triggers are necessary and considered healthy, so long as recovery troughs follow peaks of stress. An organisation that develops and supports individuals to manage the pressure should experience measurable and sustainable levels of quality performance as well as a significant reduction in absenteeism.
The ideal would be to operate at a level that challenges the individual to enable them to perform at their optimum level. HR exit interviews with employees suggest that key decisions to leave the organisation are generally cited as lack of Challenge, Development and Recognition. Now imagine a workforce that is motivated, engaged and committed to the success of the employer organisation. It is important to motivate all individuals in an organisation, from your leadership team down to your front line staff.
Provide them with the opportunity to learn to manage and control levels of stress. One of biggest challenges faced by managers is to identify the drivers that will excite and motivate their teams. Financial compensation is not the only reward, qualitative rewards are just as important such as:
- Appreciation of effort,
- Listening and implementing ideas and options,
- Honest feedback to staff.
Motivation operates at two levels:"Towards" - I am keen to actively contribute to succeed and seek reward and recognition for my effort'"Away From" - I come here, keep my head down, do the job and hope I am not laid off' In this example both individuals are motivated but the underlying drivers are very different. Therefore the way the individual performs will also be very different. The current challenging Economic Climate will impact every individual's level of stress, confidence, and motivation.
Breathing is a good method to control your level of stress.
Oxygenating the body and brain revives you instantly and can decrease the level stress levels. Try this: Sit on a chair with your back straight, upright posture. Breathe in through the nostril and breathe out through the mouth and say 'Ha' on exhalation. Just five breaths and you will feel the difference.
Communication is another effective help to manage stress
Words are extremely powerful since they create an internal feeling. Have you ever said something and it was totally misheard or mis-interpreted by the receiver. This is because we all attach meaning to the word through a complex set of internal filters. The communication model below explains how we interpret the world around us. Perception is something that is created by an individual and it can therefore be changed.
- We are processing around 2 millions bits of information every second, our mind is a filing system that deletes, distorts and generalises this information into a manageable 134bits which our unconscious mind processes for us. Our conscious mind can cope with approximately '7 bits' of information.
- Every external event is processed through filters created based on our beliefs, values, experience and more. The output is an internal representation of the filtered information.
- This information is then communicated through our nervous system to create an internal state, which then releases relevant chemicals (Cortisol, adrenaline, endorphins) to produce an internal physiology that manifests in the external behaviour of the individual.
All this is done in seconds and is happening continuously! Quite incredible. Let us deconstruct this by using an example of how we process information: You wake up in the morning and draw the curtains and either of the following can happen:Scenario A) It is a miserable day, drizzling rain and grey sky. What is the internal representation you make of this external event ?
- Your mind generalises
- Filters through your past memories and beliefs about weather and re-presents this information,('rain is misery', 'trains will be late', 'my umbrella is broken' etc..)
- Your state changes immediately, into a negative one
- Your physiology also conveys this, you may slouch your way to the shower
- Translates into your behaviour or mood for the day..anger, sadness, misery
This is termed as "An away from motivation" unless of course the individual has positive beliefs and filters around rainfall, such as regions suffering from drought.
- The sun pours in through your window as you draw the curtains, the sky is crispy blue without a cloud in sight.
- You run your filter of beliefs and memories of sunshine and blue sky and notice what happens internally, there is a warm glow and you may even run to the shower and sing along to your favourite song.
- Your behaviour manifests in - happiness, anything is possible, fun.
This is termed as "A towards motivation" unless the individual has negative beliefs and filters around sunshine, such as regions that never experience cold weather.
The meaning of communication is the response you get;
And by understanding the above communication model, hopefully you now have a better understanding of how the response is generated by the receiver. Businesses in the 21st Century, specifically during the current economic recession, are very cognisant of the importance of personal wellbeing and its link to business success. Factors that create a sustainable change in this area are the actions and behaviour of leaders and future leaders.
Leadership Development Coaching can assist in this process, working with the leadership team to enable them to become role models and help to create a shift in organisation culture. Everything is a game of energy, living life and transcending it as well. Stress mitigation should be a high priority as it has a direct effect on a company's reputation and customer satisfaction. Some steps that could assist in managing this are:
Learn to understand your internal clients and key stakeholders.
- What are their concerns such issues as workload, work patterns and the working environment?
- Does the individual understand their role within the organisation?
- Does the organisation ensure that the person has clear goals that clarify strategy and business priorities?
Enrich the relationships you have and create effective communication between all concerned.
- How is organisational change, large or small, managed and communicated?
- Does the organisation culture demonstrate management commitment?
- Do you have procedures, which are fair and open that promote positive working practices to avoid conflict and deal with unacceptable behaviour.
Understand and manage the Pressure and Performance of individuals to create sustainable levels of well being and productivity.
Define how much say the person has in the way they do their work, in a way that challenges the individual Provide support through encouragement, recognition and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues. In conclusion, just as you would manage all external risks that would impact on cash flow of your business, "Employee Energy Risk Management" is just as critical, and investment in your people at this challenging time is especially vital. Risk mitigation is considered to be the prime focus of a business, the four steps that companies may use in managing this and can be equally applied to Employee Risk management are:
- Understand the risk
- Identify the solutions
- Develop a strategy
- Implement the plan
Re-energise your employees to help:
- them recognise control and manage stress
- the organisation towards sustainable performance management
About the Author
Jayshree Dav is a Director of Pipaltree Ltd; A Consultancy that provides tailored training and Executive coaching. Working with corporations, institutions as well as individuals to unleash unlimited unrealised potential. She has enjoyed an extensive career within the trading floor environment of HSBC Corporate & Investment Banking spanning over two decades, both in London and New York. She has managed a diverse range of clients, which have included Medium Size Companies, Multinational Corporations, Asset Managers, marketing risk management solutions to these clients using currency and interest rate derivatives.
She supported the treasury function at Beecham Finance plc (Now GSK). She also worked in New York and successfully built a profitable multi product US Corporate client base and was appointed to Deputy Head of Foreign Exchange Sales in 2001. A large part of her work has been in design and delivery of leadership development solutions and behavioural change coaching. During the last three years she has worked with a number of senior leaders to help them develop their strategic capabilities.
Jayshree brings invaluable experience from her role within HSBC HR Learning & Development where the team was responsible for providing training globally. Being a creative, high energy and performance driven professional, she is passionate about people development with proven ability to design and deliver programs to develop people in line with Business Goals and Strategy.
Jayshree has over twenty years of business experience, Intermediate Diploma in Executive Coaching and is passionate about her continuous professional development. She has a Professional Diploma in Management and is a Master Practitioner in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Pipaltree Ltd M: 44 (0) 7764761225Website: www.pipaltree.net "Knowledge is not obvious until it is understood!"