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There is untapped potential for companies looking to get ahead in today’s competitive environment. While the C-suite has, for decades, been accused of doing nothing but implementing the next management fad, there is a small, but emerging industry that could revolutionize how we approach strategic decision making. Services provided by professionals, per a video from Fast Company, that amount to about a $2 billion industry, and that certainly has the capacity to grow in this age of data-driven technologies and a renewed emphasis on evidence-based decision making.

That industry is composed of professionals who serve in the role of “corporate intuitive.” It involves training people to use “their psychic awareness, their intuition, whatever their gut response is to ascertain what the person needs in their business.”

Um, come again?

Did Fast Company really produce a segment on the use of psychics in business?

Why, yes, yes they did!

So, while society in general wrestles with the issues of fake news and alternative facts, CEOs and others are spending money (remember, about $2 billion per year) on strategic initiatives that are equivalent to Peter Venkman’s ESP test from Ghostbusters (1984).


Not surprisingly, the scientific merit for the claims of these corporate intuitives is rather dubious. There is no systematic credible evidence (yes, credible, not the flimsy, anecdotal, confirmation bias, or retracted kind of evidence) for the existence of psychic powers of any kind. The CIA has even attempted to conduct a number of experiments to find evidence for the existence of psychic powers, but that has not worked out in the psychics’ favor. No, in fact, when any kind of rigorous controls are put in place, psychic powers surprisingly disappear.

So, at the end of the day, these consultants emphasize the need to embrace intuition and rely more heavily on gut instincts, except that a great deal of research shows that is likely to lead to some major decision-making errors. The Fast Company video even concluded by arguing that “you should take the chance” because “you have nowhere to go but up,” but as Simons (2002) pointed out, there is a high cost paid by organizations, managers and senior leaders who lose credibility or sacrifice the trust workers place in them.

I caution organizations to avoid reliance on corporate intuitives to assist them in solving any of their problems. I will not attribute any malfeasance to those who claim they possess such skills (as most of them seem to be genuine in their belief that such skills exist). However, the evidence for the existence of those skills is largely based on anecdotal evidence and storytelling, which leads to an overemphasis on hits and an increased likelihood of attentional bias. This is akin to developing a wellness program using the guidance of those who practice alternative and complementary medicine.

Decision making, in general, can be difficult, and strategic decision making can be even more difficult. There is a lot of risk, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of data to be considered. While it may sound like a low-risk shortcut to employ a psychic to assist in guiding you, honing your inner psychic abilities, or advising you based on their unique insights, remember that the recipe for effective decision making involves a systematic process, the use of evidence, and the inclusion of various credible perspectives. None of these characteristics have ever been used to describe those who claim to possess psychic powers.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/whita / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Marlene Ramos makes a difference in the lives of older adults who live at the properties managed by HACE Management Company, an organization that provides housing and social services to low-income seniors in North Philadelphia. Her submission was the selected pick of the week during our "I Love My Job" campaign in February that highlights the positive aspects of work.

Here is why Marlene loves her job:

I love my job because here I have gained 103 grandparents. I get to bring them joy by doing things like play Bingo or trips to a mall, casino, or the Philadelphia Flower Show.

I will never forget one morning when an 82-year-old resident came to my office crying and told me she depended on her children for everything. As she cried she mentioned she used to be so independent, but now she feels useless without her children and she hates it. She mentioned she has not been to the mall in years and would love to go before she passes, just to remember old times when she could do those things on her own. Her children work full-time jobs so if they can't take her, she won't go. After hearing her story, I coordinated with my colleagues, gathered the funds, and now have a trip planned to the Philadelphia Mills Mall. When I told her she would be going to the mall, she cried of happiness and thanked me for listening to her.

It goes to show that small gestures really do go a long way and meant the most to our seniors!

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At Southwest Behavioral and Health Services in Phoenix, AZ, sharing the love is a team pursuit. The nonprofit submitted a group photo and asked employees from across the organization to share why they love their jobs. Their submission was the selected pick of the week during our "I Love My Job" campaign in February that highlights the positive aspects of work.

We want to know why you love your job. Send us your "I love my job" story or submission through the end of February. Our selected submission each week -- like the one from Southwest Behavioral and Health Services -- will receive a sweet treat and care package to share with coworkers.

Send us your "I love my job" story or submission

Here is why staff at SB&H love their job:

Southwest Behavioral & Health Services (SB&H) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Phoenix, AZ, offering integrated behavioral and health services throughout Arizona. Our wellness Program for 2017 is focused on not only topics of physical health, but also subjects such as work-life balance, mindfulness and appreciation. Our first quarter theme is “Power of Appreciation” as a wellness component, and to that end, we have launched an internal campaign for different programs to submit to us why they love their job and/or team to be entered into a drawing to win a smoothie party.

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  • I love my job because of my company, peers, and superiors. All are family-oriented, strength-based, and understanding of personal circumstances. In the end, I do not feel like a number and really feel like a valued individual at my work. The nature of my job also makes me love my job. I help people get hired and sites staffed, the joy I get to experience makes me love my job in itself.
  • I love my job for the opportunities for growth in my career and as a person.
  • I love my job because my co-workers are very helpful, patient, understanding, and they are VERY FRIENDLY!
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to work for SB&H and I also have a wonderful supervisor who is extremely knowledgeable and I’ve learned a lot from her and I am looking forward to continued growth in my position.
  • It offers so much variety….no two days are alike and I never know what challenge might come my way.
  • I love working with employees throughout the organization!
  • I love my job because I meet with different people every day. I feel fulfilled each time when I hire an applicant.
  • I love my job because it allows me to help others grow their careers and discover their passions.
  • I love the variety of my job. Every day is different and I get to interact with such a diverse group of people. It means I am always learning.
  • You learn something new every day.
  • Great opportunity to pursue my professional career and my supervisor is a great person to learn from, plus everyone in HR is very nice.
  • Why I love my job? Well, this is the first job I’ve held for more than 4 years, because I found a job that I enjoy doing and like coming in every day. Being here 7 ½ years I enjoy what I do and have learned a lot in the records department, I push myself to meet my goals and also challenge myself on new tasks when given. SB&H is a friendly agency and I have made friendly friends. A big shout out to all my co-workers and supervisor for all your experienced help at getting me where I am now. I will continue my challenges and goals until I retire from SB&H.
  • I enjoy the people and the diversity. I have been provided with many opportunities for career growth and continue to have these opportunities.
  • SB&H prides itself in living the company’s Mission – to the benefit of both the communities we serve and our valued staff. Internally, opportunities abound for growth and advancement for all staff members.
  • I love my job because I work with people who are supportive, caring, have a great sense
  • of humor, positive outlooks and have a “can do” spirit!
  • I love the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis.
  • I love my job because it is a tool that allows me to provide for my son.
  • I love my job because I feel I’m behind the scenes making a difference in people’s lives.
  • I love that I have creativity and diversity in my job because I have difficulty when I must do the same thing every day. I also value collaboration and have the opportunity to meet and organize events and plans with internal and external staff/agencies.
  • I love being a trainer because I get to meet all of the new hires and also see current staff that need renewal trainings because I can reconnect with them and talk about how much they have experienced and grown in their position or a new position. I love to educate people and also help individuals find different trainings and connect them to other resources to help them do their job.
  • One of the best things about training is also learning from staff. Our staff are very bright, compassionate and love to share their experiences. Training is not only teaching staff different things to help them do their jobs but I also learn from staff and I share their experiences in my future trainings.
  • I love my job because I am able to teach others as well as learn new things on a daily basis.
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Kelly-Anne Suarez helps inspire children and adults to "discover the magic of color" while working as community and media relations manager at the Crayola Experience in Easton, PA. Her submission was the selected pick of the week during our "I Love My Job" campaign in February that highlights the positive aspects of work.

We want to know why you love your job. Send us your "I love my job" story or submission through the end of February. Our selected submission each week -- like Kelly-Anne's-- will receive a sweet treat and care package to share with coworkers.

Send us your "I love my job" story or submission

Here is why Kelly-Anne loves her job:

I love my job for oh SO many reasons, but one of the biggest is this: Crayola's mission is to raise creatively alive kids. In turn, at Crayola Experience, we believe that creativity is an essential skill that can be taught and should be nurtured, but--above all--MUST be experienced.

As the communications manager, it's my job not only to inspire people to visit and "discover the magic of color" for themselves, but to make sure kids and adults alike are reminded how important creativity is in daily life. This takes MANY forms. For the last two summers, I've hit the open road with an 8-foot crayon character to surprise amazing kids all of the country with a personalized Crayola experience. And that's just one example.

Whether I'm crafting on talk shows, planning kid-driven fashion competitions, playing with TV crews in our attraction, launching new locations, or building partnerships with national non-profits, I know that I'm advancing our mission and (hopefully) making life a little more colorful for the people I meet. Who can argue with that?

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What do you love about your job? Making a difference, working with fantastic colleagues, feeling proud of the organization you work for, having great benefits, something else? Tell us in writing or send us a photo or video.

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A while back, Amanda Taub wrote a piece in the New York Times about the role of partisanship in the acceptance of fake news as fact. The key takeaway for me was that people are more likely to be accepting of fake (or even biased news) when it aligns with their own political beliefs. The more entrenched people are in identifying with a political party (regardless of the party), the more they would seem to succumb to this bias. Furthermore, they tend to view people who share their political views as being more credible (strictly due to party affiliation) than those who do not share those views.

Unfortunately, this is extremely problematic from an evidence-based decision making framework. It opens the door to a variety of flaws in our ability to think critically about arguments for and against something, and it can detract from productive decision-making processes.

For example, when considering social media and the ability to insulate oneself from uncomfortable information (i.e., information that contradicts existing belief), we create a phenomenon in which we are exposed primarily to stories, data, and other information that fits with our existing worldview. This can create an illusory truth effect wherein we believe something just because we have been exposed to it over and over.

Once we become wedded to some idea, concept, or truth, we tend to seek out only information that reinforces our beliefs (also known as confirmation bias). We tend to accept arguments in favor of our view with limited skepticism, while being more critical of opposing viewpoints, often pointing out reasons why those competing viewpoints are biased or that those who disagree with us must be uninformed or approaching the issue from an egocentric perspective. Yet, we fail to accept or even acknowledge that our own biases influence our perspective on a given situation. The result of all this is that we tend to engage in what is known as the group attribution error, in which we short-circuit critical thinking in favor of seeing the best in politicians from the party with which we identify and the worst in politicians with opposing viewpoints.

These are just some of the fundamental flaws that have made their way into modern discourse (if discourse even applies in some situations). Once we become so entrenched in one particular view, it is rather difficult to alter that view, as was pointed out by Aschwanden. This seems especially true when those views have strong emotions attached to them, as the infusion of emotion can affect judgment and reasoning (Blanchette & Richards, 2014).

This would not seem to leave us a very good predicament at the present time. We are allowing biases, logical fallacies, and emotion to replace critical thinking and evidence-based decision making. And yet, much of the general public (even the educated general public) may be unaware of this, as we tend not to recognize the biases we possess. To change the direction in which we seem to be heading, it will require a grassroots effort of those supporting more effective critical thinking and skepticism, or it will require a political movement led from those in power to truly espouse and practice less-biased, less-emotional, and less-fallacious decision making. However, there are obvious systemic barriers that will deter progress on either front, and time will tell whether we continue to move farther away from productive skepticism and closer to decision by groupthink.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/elnegro / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Every February, we host "I Love My Job" to highlight the positive aspects of work. We're receiving submissions from people who are telling us the reasons they love their job.

We're featuring the best submissions each week here, on Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages. The person or team who provides our favorite entry for the week receives some special treats to share with his or her co-workers.

Send us your "I love my job" story or submission

Here is our favorite submission from last week, sent in by Julie Guerra, human resources director for Nueces County, Texas, government.

Here is why Julie loves her job:

"I love my job at Nueces County! I enjoy working with all the employees at Nueces County, especially my own staff. The employees that work in my department are wonderful; I have such a great team. I find this job very fulfilling knowing that we are assisting people with finding new jobs and making a difference in their lives. It’s a good feeling knowing that I can help somebody with a life-changing event.

Another great part of my job is our company’s wellness program. Reaching out to our employees to make them aware of health issues is a great opportunity that my department enjoys. And, the employees appreciate it. I like making the connections for them. It’s a wonderful place to be at Nueces County!"

Thanks, Julie, for your submission. Look for a delivery soon of special treats as our appreciation for helping to spread the love.

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What do you love about your job? Making a difference, working with fantastic colleagues, feeling proud of the organization you work for, having great benefits, something else? Tell us in writing or send us a photo or video.

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A new law in France that went into effect on Jan. 1 allows workers the “right to disconnect" from after-hours work emails. The legislation addressed a problem that is not uniquely French: how to control the flow of work spilling into time away from the office, especially when smartphones let people check email on the fly and more employees work remotely. Larissa Barber, PhD, is a psychologist and assistant professor at Northern Illinois University who researches employee work-life interface with technology, among other areas. Here are her thoughts on the French law, if it could be enacted in the United States, and how employers and employees can support a "right to disconnect" regardless of any law.

1. What is your opinion about France's new email law?

From a worker rights perspective, this “right to disconnect” law is a great first step in addressing a widespread issue in the modern workplace. Many labor laws haven’t kept up with the changing nature of work. Working long hours at a physical workspace on site has been replaced with “boundaryless” work that spills over into remote workspaces, like our homes. While working remotely can have lots of other benefits for employees, it comes with its own set of challenges to managing a reasonable workload. This law requires that companies (with more than 50 employees) establish predictable “on” versus “off” time hours for their employees, which can be helpful for kicking off discussions to achieve those ends.

2. Is there a downside to this law?

There are certainly a few downsides. First, laws are only the first step. Laws can send a powerful societal message about what we value from employer-employee relationships and protect workers, but companies are ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining a healthy workplace culture. There’s a pretty consistent research pattern suggesting formal policies regarding work-life balance issues are not effective on their own. Informal practices and supportive supervisor-employee relationships are the most powerful way to address these issues. Second, research shows that employee control is critical for increasing feelings of work-life balance. If employees feel like they can’t respond when they want to—such as during hours that were initially agreed on as “off-time”—then the good intentions of the law can backfire. Lastly, the law really only appears to apply to emails. However, there are a variety of ways employees can be contacted during nonwork time, like phone or chat. This means the law is overly focused on one mode of communication rather than the broader issue of disconnecting in general. This can undermine the effectiveness of the law, as companies can choose to merely alter their communication medium instead of directly dealing with the underlying communication issue.

3. Could such a law ever happen or work here in the U.S., even at the state level?

The U.S. could adopt a similar law, but it would be challenging. The current trend in our political environment has not been supportive of worker rights in general, and these email laws in other countries have been met with skepticism in the U.S. There are also misconceptions of what these laws entail; for example, there’s an assumption that the French law is setting specific hours for companies. In fact, the law is merely requiring that companies establish predictable hours that employees need to be responsive to emails. A law about policy presence instead of content is actually a lot more flexible than people think. Moreover, research on “predictable time off” demonstrates that policy discussions around “ground rules”—when done collaboratively between work teams—are beneficial for helping people disconnect and remain productive.

4. Is legislating what happens when away from the office effective for either the employer or employees?

Regulations can be great for sending a broader societal message of valuing healthy work practices and avoiding exploitative ones. Regulations could also be useful way to get discussion started about setting ground rules for technology expectations, which that many companies may not have done without prompting. Additionally, worker rights laws can give workers more “real control” over their work. In an individualistic society like the U.S., we assume workers have complete control over whether they respond or not already, but that’s not completely true. There are real punishments for not complying with 24/7 expectations, including lack of promotion and even termination. In times of high job insecurity, workers feel they must stay connected to keep their jobs, regardless of the actual quality of their work. Thus, such laws could be effective here in the U.S. too. However, these types of laws won’t ultimately be effective if employees and employers do not see some sort of flexibility built in or long-term value to their organization. They must feel like they can periodically change the communication “ground rules” as needed in a way that respects workers, but also works for changing demands in the workplace. In sum, simply relying on a regulation to fix a multi-faceted and deep cultural issue won’t work on its own. Organizational leaders have the most power in setting the tone for healthy workplace practices.

5. Other than legislation, what can employers and employees do to keep telepressure under control?

Telepressure is driven heavily by what we call “social norms” in the work environment. That is, what are the expectations and common emailing patterns of your work team and supervisor? The typical issue is that people don’t discuss these expectations, we tend to just do what others are doing in the workplace to fit in. Having explicit discussions about expectations for “on” versus “off” times is the most effective way to help get telepressure under control. Additionally, these times may not be the same for everyone on the work team. Although some hours may overlap for all team members, some employees may need to respond only during the day while others prefer evening or other specific windows of time. These hours could also change across time for a single worker based on life circumstances (small kids at home, caring for an elderly parent). Thus, availability expectations should be periodically updated and discussed. While regulations are good for asking employers to both have these discussions and convey expectations clearly, we don’t want to undermine their effectiveness by requiring specific or inflexible hours.

Bonus Question: How do you personally (an an expert and as someone who has to balance her own work-life) manage email outside work.

I actually do very well putting my research into practice when it comes to my own email management! I feel in control of email and my work-life balance in general, but mostly because I understand it something that needs to be actively managed. I regularly convey explicit ground rules for when others can respect responses from me. I avoid telepressuring others by putting specific deadlines in my email requests so people know I don’t expect an immediate response. With my research team, I discuss how email communications are mostly distinct from actual work performance. Being overly responsive can potentially take away focus on other important tasks and reduce efficiency. The most important thing I’ve found is that once you set the rules, you need to stick to them. If you regularly break your own rules, then no one will take them seriously.

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Looking for that perfect gift for a colleague or just want to stuff your own stocking with some knowledge? These books from our suggested reading lists are a great way to spread holiday cheer, or strengthen your own efforts to promote employee well-being and organizational performance.

Selections include new releases, best-of-class reference texts and essential resources for business executives, consultants, HR and wellness professionals and psychologists who work with organizations. 

Titles and descriptions come from both the APA Center for Organizational Excellence’s Amazon Associates Store and APA Books.

Make Your Workplace Psychologically Healthy in 2017

Our own book is the place to start for an overview of what it means to have a "psychologically healthy" workplace, and how to create and maintain one. In "The Psychologically Healthy Workplace: Building a Win-Win Environment for Organizations and Employees," top experts and scholars focus on the complex interplay between employee and organizational outcomes across five key intervention areas. The book blends research with real-life examples of how psychology can improve the lives of employees and help business thrive.

Managing Employees Who Telecommute or Work Remotely

Flexibility in the how, when and where employees work is not just a perk for working parents – it’s smart business strategy. However, having a policy that allows employees to work remotely doesn’t guarantee success. Supervisors need to learn the skills necessary to manage employees virtually — which is where this list of suggested readings comes in handy.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can have serious repercussions for employees and the organization alike. By promoting a psychologically healthy workplace and taking steps to prevent and address negative workplace behaviors, employers can create a work environment where employees and the organization thrive. This list of suggested readings on workplace bullying can help.

Employee Wellness and Health Promotion

Health and wellness initiatives maximize the physical and mental health of employees through the prevention, assessment and treatment of potential health risks and problems and by encouraging and supporting healthy lifestyle and behavior choices. This selection of books focuses on employee wellness and health promotion, with volumes that explore theory, implementation and best practices.

Work-Life and Flexibility

Conflict between work and other life responsibilities can diminish the quality of both work and home life for employees, which in turn can affect organizational outcomes such as productivity, absenteeism and turnover. This selection of books explores the work-life interface and flexible work arrangements, with volumes that explore theory, implementation and best practices.

Training and Development

By investing in employee growth and development, organizations can improve the quality of their employees’ work experience and realize positive gains by enhancing organizational effectiveness and improving work quality, as well as by helping attract and retain top-quality employees. This selection of books includes volumes that explore research, practical applications and approaches to developing effective training programs.

Employee Recognition

By acknowledging employee efforts and making them feel valued and appreciated, organizations can increase employee satisfaction, morale, and self-esteem. Additionally, the organization itself may benefit from greater employee engagement and productivity, lower turnover and the ability to attract and retain top quality employees. This selection of books explores various recognition topics with volumes that cover motivation, incentives and more.

Leadership

Whether designing organizational structures and processes that drive performance, promoting a positive work environment that facilitates meaningful work or developing a resilient workforce that can compete in an evolving marketplace, effective leadership is critical to a psychologically healthy workplace. This selection of books focuses on leadership with volumes that explore theory, research and practice.

Executive Coaching

Executive coaches play a variety of roles in organizations, including helping top executives perform at their best, developing new leaders to move into higher roles, acting as a sounding board for senior managers and working with key employees at risk of derailing. This selection of books includes volumes that explore behavior and performance, as well as the history of coaching and approaches that lead to success.

Personnel Assessment and Selection

An organization’s personnel selection process should be based on evidence-based practices that are grounded in research and theory. Special issues to consider include test validity, avoiding adverse impact and ensuring your organization is using legally sound methods to select and promote employees. This collection of books explores the development and validation of selection procedures, job analysis, interviewing and more.

Diversity and Inclusion at Work

Diversity is more than just a workplace program or policy. Ingrained in an organization’s culture, valuing diversity and promoting inclusion have broad strategic implications for innovation, well-being, performance and success. This selection of books focuses on diversity and inclusion, with volumes that explore culture, team work, communications and management.

Workplace Safety

Promoting employee safety can reduce accidents and injuries, create a more loyal workforce, enhance the company’s public image, decrease insurance rates and improve employee effectiveness. This list includes volumes that explore environmental hazards, safety behaviors, legal and compliance issues, safety management, ergonomics, employee training and how to promote and support a safety culture.

Workplace Stress

By investing in employee health and stress prevention, organizations can benefit from greater productivity and reductions in healthcare costs, absenteeism and accident/injury rates. This selection of books explores workplace stress, with volumes that focus on causes, risk factors and tips for preventing job burnout.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Through socially responsible actions, leaders can improve the functioning of their organizations and improve performance by doing what’s right. This selection of books explores corporate social responsibility, with volumes that focus on strategy, employee engagement in social causes and sustainable business practices and case examples from world-renowned organizations.

For additional selections, check out more APA Books on Industrial and Organizational Psychology and the online store from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Here’s to happy holidays and a healthy new year!

The content provided above is for informational purposes only. The inclusion of any product, service, vendor or organization does not imply endorsement, recommendation or approval by the American Psychological Association, the APA Center for Organizational Excellence or the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/urfinguss

Helping others makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but did you know it is also good for your mental and physical health? Emotions and behaviors that are focused on other people are associated with better well-being, health, and longevity. Yes, being altruistic could help you live longer!

APA has a committee of staff dedicated to improving the health and well-being of employees. This November, APA’s Health and Wellness Committee challenged APA staff to focus on acts of kindness for one week. Each participant committed to one intentional act of kindness per day. Through small or big acts, the focus was on helping others and creating a better workplace for all of us.

Participants were involved in a community email thread through which people shared ideas, struggles and outcomes. Some people held the door for another person or hung signs reminding people they are valued; others gave up a seat on the commuter train or bought lunch for a coworker. The effects of the challenge could be seen throughout the organization as staff members found ways to brighten the days of their colleagues and improve morale in the workplace.

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The group took the challenge one step further and spent two hours volunteering at a nearby men’s homeless shelter during the workday. Tasks included folding laundry, making beds, and serving lunch with a smile. APA realizes giving back to the community affects all levels of the organization and the community in a positive way, and that's why employees are given 3.75 hours of paid volunteer leave each year. This lets employees take a half day of work time to give back to the community.

One participant shared this about her experience at the shelter: “In the middle of a hectic APA workday, it was profoundly moving to volunteer some time tending to these gentlemen’s most basic needs by making beds and serving lunch. It was a reminder that caring for our community doesn’t always require more than empty hands and a full heart.”


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Gratitude is another “warm and fuzzy” word that actually has evidence-based positive effects on well-being. Research shows people who practice gratitude consistently have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, and report experiencing more joy and pleasure and less loneliness and isolation.

APA’s November Healthy Hour (think happy hour, but with healthy snacks and games instead of alcohol) featured a Gratitude Gathering.

Participants wrote out things they were thankful for on cardstock in the shapes of fruits and vegetables, and added them to the wall’s cornucopia of thankfulness. Another activity was a Gratitude Grab, through which employees took a challenge out of an envelope and reported back later about their experience. Examples of challenges included: go for a walk at work and write down all the good things you see; tell a coworker three things you like about them; eliminate gossip and negative talk from your vocabulary today. This focus on gratitude seemed to have a positive effect on morale, particularly given the anxiety and uncertainty existing for many post-election.

In this way, it’s important to think about what your staff truly need at a specific moment in time when deciding which programs to implement. Though these activities focusing on altruism and gratitude may seem small, they are far-reaching. By affecting the well-being of an employee at your organization, you can also impact their families and communities, and who knows where the ripple will stop.

Editor's note: This post is part of an ongoing series that shares some of the initiatives, events and activities that support employee health and well-being at the American Psychological Association. We don't only talk about how businesses and organizations can be psychologically healthy. It's a model we've also adopted for ourselves.

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Tara Davis is director of the Staff Initiatives Office, which is part of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.

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Bashing annual employee surveys has definitely come into fashion. All too often, headlines recommend that companies scrap their annual engagement or satisfaction surveys and instead put boots on the ground and experience work from the employee perspective. Get out there, talk to people and you will get a sense of what is going on. That was the focus of a recent article on Forbes by Liz Ryan, suggesting that we “Ditch the Employee Engagement Survey -- Here Are Ten Better Ways to Listen.

The article misses the mark in its criticism of employee surveys. Perhaps it could be construed as an indictment of the way surveys are being used in some organizations today. After all, modern surveying capabilities allow anyone, regardless of survey design expertise, to utilize the tool, and because data collection is easy and efficient, it often replaces more beneficial, yet time-consuming, ways of collecting robust information from across the organization.

However, a quarterly or annual survey, when designed correctly, still serves an important function in organizations. It permits the organization to assess the current state of the workforce, whether in terms of engagement, job satisfaction, turnover intentions, or some other constructs. When coupled with modern analytics and visualization capabilities, organizations can effectively identify changes over time, specific issues that need to be addressed, and problem areas within the organization.

Anecdotes are not surveys

These benefits cannot be realized using any of the tactical approaches Ryan recommends in her article. Many of the approaches she mentions (e.g., being available for group conversations, quick one-on-one conversations) could be used to add more focused discussion based on survey results, but they will not replace the quality of information obtained in a survey of the workforce.

The reason for this is that surveys provide a broad collection of information across a wide variety of individuals within the organization. Data are collected and analyzed in a systematic way, and therefore, the results provide a more inclusive cross-section of the organization than any other tactical approach.

Meetings and town hall forums, suggestion boxes, and lunch room conversations may produce a host of anecdotal data, which can be highly fruitful and produce ideas worth considering and vetting for possible implementation across the organization. However, such data are typically non-representative and increase our likelihood of succumbing to one of many cognitive biases. If your primary (or only) way of assessing the state of the workforce is through the use of anecdotal data, you will likely walk away with a biased, unrepresentative view of your organization.

Instead, a more systematic approach would be as follows:

  1. Survey employees about their attitudes using broad, validated metrics and in a way to optimizes response rate and willingness to respond candidly.
  2. Use multifaceted approaches (e.g., town hall meetings, online suggestion boxes, lunch room conversations), more boots on the ground approaches to discuss survey results, get a sense of individual employee concerns and ideas for enhancing the organization’s overall effectiveness.
  3. Synthesize and evaluate the possible options for moving the organization forward that were generated during Step 2. If multiple options are being considered, perhaps poll employees to get a sense of their preferences for the options in the list.
  4. Begin implementation of initiatives, finding ways, when possible to get employees involved.
  5. Assess the quality of implementation in the next round of surveys and begin the process all over again.

Such an approach recognizes that organizational effectiveness cannot be enhanced with a “one and done” process. It requires a systematic, recurring process that relies on data being collected in multiple ways and integrated to optimize the likelihood of successful strategies and initiatives.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/penmachine/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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