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ARUP Laboratories is a standout when it comes to the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards. As a multi-year winner from Utah at the state level and a recipient of the American Psychological Association's National Award and a Best Practices Honor, few organizations can boast as successful a record. So, what are they doing right?

Well, the award-winning benefits package certainly helps, but I'd argue that the key lies in the company's culture. ARUP Laboratories prides itself on having established and sustained a work environment that supports family, health and education and promotes integrity, open communication, mutual respect, compassion, creativity and innovation. The result is a balanced workplace that not only promotes the health and well-being of employees and their families, but also enhances the quality of services ARUP provides its customers.

Here's the ARUP highlight reel from our 2006 awards ceremony.

You can read more about ARUP's efforts in the areas of employee involvement, health and safety, growth and development, work-life balance and employee recognition here and learn more about the free on-site employee health clinic here.

As individuals, we know what works best for ourselves. When it comes to tackling problems, I usually dive in, get my hands dirty and learn as I go, doing whatever research is necessary along the way. But personalities differ, which is why as managers we should tweak our management approach to compliment our employees’ work styles. Some of us are natural planners, others aren’t, so when the scale of a project allows us to be flexible in our approach, why not?

I’m not saying that employees everywhere should abandon planning. It’s not a good time to throw caution to the wind and take unnecessary risks at work. What I am suggesting, however, is that we really listen to employees. Do they need managers telling them how to complete every project every time? Employees learn and approach work differently, but if their strategies more often than not turn out a great “product,” who are we to say how it should be done (as long as it’s ethical/within company policy, etc.)?

Google gives employees free time to explore their own projects and some great products have resulted. Trust is a major confidence booster that employees could use right now. Even if we don’t have the resources Google does, as managers, we can still help our employees feel supported by giving them a little space, which might be just what they need to tap into their creative talents. What are the advantages for managers? Engaged, productive employees who consistently engineer innovative ideas that wind up saving your company resources (i.e., time, money), or even better, generate revenue. Additionally, you’ll have more free time to concentrate on the big picture since you’ll spend more time guiding employees and less time micromanaging.

Before sending employees off on their own – give them the basics they need to be successful, like the purpose of the project, desired results, how it fits into the big picture, and hints for stuff to avoid, and/or examples of what has failed in the past. The point is to guide employees and help them when they need it, rather than being so focused on a plan that the process distracts employees from reaching, or surpassing the goal. Give employees the freedom to come up with their own plans and keep in mind that you should be available, communicate effectively, and not pull the plug at the first sign of failure. Give ‘em a chance to come to you first and help when asked, otherwise you’ll inevitably knock the wind out of their sails. Here’s a great example of open communication from a Harvard Business Blog about a manager of a Four Seasons hotel (also great examples of proximity management).

A recent study that investigated the role of empowerment and perceived organizational support provides great insight into why high involvement work processes produce positive changes in employee attitudes and job satisfaction, as well as the importance of organizational support. In short, it’s important to give employees the freedom to be successful in their own right and ensure that they feel supported by the organization and their managers along the way.

Does your company have innovative ways of encouraging employees’ independent thinking? How has it paid off? I’d love to hear about some creative approaches!
Last year, the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program hit the streets of Washington, DC to talk to people about work and how they manage stress. The responses ranged from serious to off the wall (and that's just the stuff we can show you). Check out this quick take on work life from the streets of our nation's capital.

Is your workplace psychologically healthy?

Rewarded rats work harder. This was the insight of psychologist B.F. Skinner had that has influenced psychology, education, and business for more than half a century.

It appears that rewarded people also work harder – if we can only figure out the right rewards, and the right timing of the rewards, and how to transfer those rewards so that there is internal motivation to continue to work in the absence of immediate rewards, etc. It turns out to be a more complicated problem than it appeared in the laboratory.

Psychologically healthy workplaces, like Mercy Health System in Janesville, WI, have tried to understand this process by thinking about what they really value and how they can effectively provide recognition to employees who reflect their values.

Here is the first thing they did right. They started by really taking a look at the most important values of the organization. Caring for the needs of people who are injured or sick or worried is an important responsibility. It is not just an interaction between doctors and patients. When a patient walks into a hospital or clinic, he or she interacts with office personnel, nurses, technicians, food service providers, and maintenance workers, among others. Each of them has an opportunity to be a caring presence for the patient. They can also be a caring presence for each other as co-workers. And it is the establishment of a caring organization that is the top value for Mercy Health System. This is what they wanted to reward.

The second thing they did right was to choose to focus on the employees who were already doing the right thing. Rather than run a publicity campaign to make people more aware of the need to care for each other, they focused on the real examples of employees who were already doing it. They knew it is possible to be this kind of caring employee because there were (many) real life examples of caring happening every day already.

The third thing they did right was that they focused on the little things as well as the big things. Hospitals have examples of heroic interventions that save lives. But the caring organization also exemplified in the an aide who spends a few extra moments holding the hand of a patient worrying about surgery tomorrow, the maintenance person who cleans up a mess without embarrassing someone who is sick and in pain, and even the person who holds the elevator for a last minute passenger. The little things, done on a daily basis, have as much, or more, impact as the heroic actions. So the little things need to be acknowledged too.

Mercy Health System established a recognition program for anyone who showed a caring action within the course of their everyday work. Anyone could be nominated for a caring action. And anyone could nominate a fellow employee for something they saw him or her do. The recognition is given in the form of a simple pin that the employee’s supervisor gives to acknowledge the caring behavior. There is no limit to the number of pins you can earn. There is apparently no limit to the number of pins you can wear either, judging by the number of employees who keep adding pins to their uniforms. The caring culture of the organization has grown through this simple program to reward behavior that aligns with the values of the hospital system.

What do you do to recognize employees who embody the values of your company?



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This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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