Friday, September 18, 2009

Rather not know what's really going on in your workplace? I don't blame you!

Do you know if things are working well (or not) in your workplace? Are employees happy and engaged in their work environment or is there conflict and dissatisfaction? Are you aware of issues or concerns causing problems in your team/organization? Are you interested in doing something to determine the health of your organization and to resolve any problems that might exist?

The answers to all these questions may be simpler than you think and a workplace assessment may be the next logical next step for you to undertake with the help of professionals in the field. Many managers – both in the public and private sectors – are hesitant to commit to workplace assessments because they may learn things about their organizations that they don't know or may not want to know (e.g. sleeping dogs). Then, again, they might find out that any problems they uncover were inherited from their predecessor(s).

But once you have the results, chances are you'll have to do something about them.

However, it has been shown that assessments undertaken by trained professionals are likely to lead to a strengthened organizational climate and improved employee engagement and performance.

Weak organizational structures, stressful work climates, ineffective leadership and communication processes, inadequate employment policies, meagre supervision, and managerial apathy all impact negatively on the climate in the workplace. And they appear to be increasingly more common.

In many organizations the picture is bleak, high turnover is typical in many units within government departments and agencies and employee dissatisfaction appears to be on the rise. Some of the other signs that all is not well in the workplace include:
  • High rates of sick leave
  • High rates of stress/burnout
  • High grievance/formal complaint rates
  • Low employee engagement
There are different types of organizational assessments, also know as workplace assessments. Some are simple in form and may seek employee feedback on workplace satisfaction or stressors using an online survey sent to a small team/unit or to the entire organization. Others are more comprehensive and may seek employee feedback on several organizational elements (e.g. work climate, culture, workload, well-being, organizational stress/burnout, turnover, professional development and training, and team dynamics).

There are different types of consultants undertaking such assessments from various backgrounds and with varying degrees of expertise (e.g. HRM consultants, generalists in survey design). Given how most individuals spend much of their day at work and identify with their jobs, for many the organizational assessment can be sensitive and emotional, especially if the work climate is tense or not functioning optimally. The assessment needs to be professionally planned and survey/interview questions expertly selected. There must be a commitment from the organization to act on the results and to protect employees who may need further support (e.g. an employee who has been harassed in the workplace may need someone to talk to a trained professional after such an assessment).

Consulting psychologists have a developed set of skills that make them ideal for such assessments (i.e. collecting information that is emotionally charged, gaining trust and reassuring employees that all will remain confidential and anonymous, and assessing the general well-being of employees and the organisation). Psychologists also provide well-balanced recommendations which are not just focused on what the organization needs to do but on what each member needs to do – placing the onus on all to succeed. Many have referred to such workplace assessments as organizational health diagnostics since they place a heavier emphasis on assessing the well-being of the employees and organizations and are conducted by consulting psychologists who are experts in the field of well-being and measurement.

High performance organizations are likely to have cultures/workplaces that are dynamic or adaptive, yet highly consistent and predictable, and that foster high involvement and a sense of mission. Are you prepared to turn your organization into one of the high performers, if it's not already?

Still interested? Attached are three cases which were conducted by experts in the field.

Case study 1. Workplace Assessment: A Proactive Initiative of a Federal Agency
Case study 2. Organizational Health Assessment of a Federal Department
Case study 3. Assessment of a Dysfunctional Government Unit/Team

Dr. Yaniv Benzimra, Consulting Psychologist
Dr. Yannick Mailloux, Consulting Psychologist
L.Long, HRM Consultant
Y2 Consulting Psychologists

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