Time to rethink your job

Dec 01 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

We all know engaged, committed workers are the most productive. But is it possible to get staff more engaged and committed just by changing how they think about their work? A new Canadian study has suggested that it is.

Research by academics at the University of Alberta has argued that encouraging employees to rethink their jobs and get back the sense of purpose so easily lost in the day-to-day grind of meetings, projects and deadlines can significantly improve how they work.

In fact, employers that successfully encouraged employees to change their mind-set in this way reported a 60 per cent improvement in attendance and a massive 75 per cent increase in staff retention.

A first focus group of 24 healthcare workers was encouraged to attend a one-day "Spirit at Work" workshop designed to focus them on what it was they were trying to achieve at work and in their career.

This was followed by eight weekly booster sessions carried out when shifts changed.

A second focus group of 34 workers was offered no such support programme.

The results, published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing, were startling, argued the university's Val Kinjerski, who co-authored the study.

"We discovered that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees," she said.

Among the intervention group, there was a 23 per cent increase in teamwork, while job satisfaction rose by a tenth. There was also a 17 per cent jump in workplace morale.

Employer costs related to absenteeism were almost $12,000 less for the five months following the workshop than for the same period in the previous year. The employees also showed an increased interest in and focus on their patients.

"They really had a sense of what they were there to do, to be of service to their clients. This notion of being of service is important in all work, but in the field of long-term health care, it is of utmost importance," said Kinjerski.