The key to commitment

Aug 22 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Forget all the management babble. If you really want to create a successful, productive workplace, the secret is simply to build trust, a sense of purpose and strong human relationships.

Behavioral research carried out by a team from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital has found that commitment is largely influenced by one's sense of purpose, feeling of personal impact and overall trust in the organization.

Similarly, productivity is largely affected by the quality of human relationships including cooperative, social group moods and interaction.

"The results lead us to conclude that workplaces that provide positive environments that foster interpersonal trust and quality personal relationships create the most committed and productive employees," said Nancy Etcoff, the lead researcher on the study.

The research also found that employee happiness is significantly improved by trust and identification with co-workers. Similarly, the greater the feeling of purpose around work, the greater is an individual's commitment to the organization.

The same is true for the level of trust the employer has cultivated among its employees. Productive employees are a result of a winning combination of trust and support.

Workplace relationship expert, Courtney Anderson, said that the research underlined how important it now is for business leaders to build a sense of trust and purpose in their organizations.

"Outstanding leadership today means much more than just doing your job. Success is creating an environment that fosters happy, committed, productive team members," she said.

But while this might sound daunting, reinvigorating workplaces by enhancing trust and employee commitment does not have to be difficult, Anderson added.

The biggest challenge, she said, "is making the time to truly change in our overscheduled, instant access competitive work environments. With a little know-how, it can be easy to evolve workplace well being and respond to these compelling research results."

Small things that can make a big difference can be as simple as putting flowers in the working environment. Studies at Rutgers, Texas A&M and Harvard universities have proven that flowers enhance moods, social interaction and on-the-job creativity and productivity, with a demonstrable energizing effect on people at work.

Another tip is to practice what Anderson terms "uneventful Management". That means being ready for crises but presenting yourself to your team and others as prepared, calm and assertive.

Underpinning this, managers must ensure that their communication is both honest and direct and that they make time to reach out to their team on a regular basis to keep them informed of progress and issues that they may face down the road.

Employees commit to leaders who demonstrate the three key qualities of confidence, credibility and flexibility, Anderson argued, and it is important that leaders are aware of this and acknowledge their weaknesses where necessary.

"Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with complex, capital-intensive innovations that we miss the solutions right in front of us," she added. "Doing little things like adding flowers to your workspace or taking a few extra minutes to get to know your co-workers will make you happier at work."