What Emotional Needs Do Employees Have?
Once people’s physical needs are met, the next organizational challenge is to fuel emotional energy.
How people feel profoundly influences how they perform. Very specific emotions are associated with high performance, and they can be actively and intentionally cultivated.
Our study uncovered two critical variables for fueling emotional energy: a feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a sense of safety and trust.
Enjoyment and Satisfaction
Only 37% of respondents said they were satisfied in their jobs, but those who did reported being 54% more able to focus and 2.3 times as engaged.
Only 30% of respondents said they had the opportunity to do what they enjoy most at work, and those who didn’t reported being 38% less focused, 49% less engaged, and 57% less likely to stay with the organization.
Safety and Trust
Only 29% of respondents feel a sense of safety and trust at work; only 25% of respondents feel they can give their leader honest feedback; and only 21% reported receiving feedback in a way they can hear.
Respondents who felt they didn’t receive useful, digestible feedback reported 34% lower engagement, 33% less focus, and a 47% lower likelihood to stay with the organization.
For Leaders: Build a Culture of Respect
Leadership behaviors in every dimension have a significant impact on employee energy, sustainability, and performance.
For leaders, the key to fueling emotional energy is to be optimistic and positive, and consistently make team members feel valued, respected, and appreciated.
The three leadership characteristics that had the biggest impact on all performance variables were:
Treating employees with respect
Recognizing and appreciating them
Being positive and optimistic.
Treating employees with respect has a bigger impact on their sense of safety and trust, and their ability to focus, than any other leader behavior. Employees who felt their leaders treated them with respect were 63% more satisfied with their jobs, 55% more engaged, 58% more focused, and 110% more likely to stay with their organization.
Those who felt recognized and appreciated by their leader reported 53% higher focus, 58% higher engagement, and a 109% higher likelihood to stay with the organization.
Leaders perceived as positive and optimistic have a contagious impact on their employees. Employees with positive leaders reported 54% higher engagement, 71% more enjoyment at work, 2.5 times more trust and safety, and a 105% higher likelihood to stay at the organization.
They also report 2.2 times the level of meaning and significance at work, and 55% more focus, suggesting how profoundly positive behaviors in one domain have a spillover effect into others.
Ushering in the Human Era at Work
It’s time to usher in the Human Era at work. In the Human Era, leaders take better care of their people, so people can take better care of their business.
The better people’s needs are met, the more healthy, happy, engaged, productive, and loyal they become. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of business.
The Human Era calls for a new kind of leader, whose most fundamental role is to serve as Chief Energy Officers, responsible for mobilizing, focusing, inspiring, and regularly recharging the energy of those they lead.
Emotionally, the charge to leaders is to truly care for those they lead – not just by regularly recognizing and appreciating them for their accomplishments, but also by holding their value while delivering critical feedback, and by believing in their capacity to exceed their own expectations.
About the Survey
The Energy Project partnered with the Harvard Business Review to release the Quality of Life @ Work assessment, a 56-question survey designed to examine the world of work: organizational policies, practices, and mindsets, leader behaviors, and the feelings and responses of employees, at all levels, within those companies.
The survey was conducted online through HBR.org from November 2013 through June 2014 and included responses from nearly 20,000 employees working in organizations of all size, at all levels in over 25 industries. For a breakout of the respondent profile, see pages 13-15 of the original report.