Tag Archives: employee satisfaction

Do You Have a High Performing Workplace?

At the Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) Leadership Conference in August this year the audience was provided a taste of results from research which identified the leadership, culture and management practices that characterise high performing workplaces. The project was also featured in the October 2011 issue of AFR’s Boss Magazine. The 65-page research report is available online from SKE, Society for Knowledge Economics. Links are at the end of this article.
What follows are some of the key points, extracts, quotes and highlights from the report.

The Leadership, Culture and Management Practices of High Performing Workplaces in Australia: The High Performing Workplaces Index

This 2.5 year project was funded by the Workplace Innovation Fund within the Federal Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) in December 2009 and project managed by the Society for Knowledge Economics (SKE). The research began in March 2010 and was undertaken by a cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, Australian National University (ANU), Macquarie University and Copenhagen Business School (CBS).
The researchers worked with 78 Australian organisations from the services sector to identify and analyse what constitutes a high performing workplace. 5,661 employees participated in the research (senior executives, middle management, frontline management and non-managerial employees).
16% of the sample (12 organisations) are rated in the HPW category and 17% (13 organisations) are in Lower Performing Workplace (LPW) category.

The HPW (High Performing Workplaces) Index

Organisational performance was assessed using 18 performance measures in six categories:
1. Innovation
2. Employee Experience
3. Fairness
4. Leadership
5. Customer
6. Profitability and Productivity

Highlights / excerpts from the report

Productivity: HPWs are more productive and are nearly three times more profitable than LPWs
Innovation: HPWs have higher levels of innovation outputs, generate more new ideas, have in place more mechanisms for capturing ideas from employees, have more formal processes for assessing and responding to ideas from employees, are more successful at transforming ideas into new products/services, processes and dedicate significantly more resources to fund new strategic initiatives.

Employee Experience: HPWs have lower levels of employee turnover, higher levels of job satisfaction and employee commitment; employees are more involved with their organisation, exert extra effort in their jobs, and are more likely to tell their friends that their organisation is a great place to work. Employees have lower levels of anxiety, worry, fear, depression and feelings of inadequacy and higher levels of positive emotions, such as feeling valued, proud, cheerful, optimistic and loved.

Fairness: HPWs have higher levels of fairness. These include distribution of rewards and fair implementation of company procedures and policies by managers.

Leadership: Supervisors and managers in HPWs spend more time and effort managing their people, have clear values and ‘practice what they preach’, give employees opportunities to lead work assignments and activities, encourage employee development and learning, welcome criticism and feedback as learning opportunities, give increased recognition and acknowledgement to employees, foster involvement and cooperation amongst employees, have a clear vision and goals for the future, and are innovative and encourage employees to think about problems in new ways.

Customer Experience: HPWs are better at understanding customer needs and are curious to learn new things from customers. They act on customers’ suggestions and feedback; do whatever it takes to create value for customers, and are better at achieving their customer satisfaction goals.
“This suggests that any organisation wishing to transition to a HPW would have to improve the management, development and measurement of its intangible assets.” (page 9 of the report)


The report details questions/statements used for all six categories. For example, Employee Experience and Leadership are listed below.

Employee Experience – the HPW Index comprises these areas:

Effort: I am willing to put a great deal of effort beyond that normally expected to help this organisation be successful
Effort: I would accept almost any type of job assignment in order to keep working for this organisation
Effort: This organisation really inspires the very best in me in the way of job performance
Membership: I tell my friends that this organisation is a great place to work
Membership: I am proud to tell others that I am part of this organisation
Membership: For me this is the best of all possible organisations to work for
Values and Purpose: My personal values and the organisation’s values are very similar
Values and Purpose: I really care about the fate of this organisation
Values and Purpose: I believe in the overall purpose of this organisation
Turnover Intention: I do not plan on leaving this organisation soon
Job Satisfaction: Overall, how satisfied are you with your current job?

Also measured were positive emotions (optimistic, proud, valued, loved, cheerful) and negative emotions (anxious, worried, depressed, inadequate, fearful). Positive emotions are much more prevalent in HPWs whereas negative emotions are more prevalent in LPWs.

The most prevalent emotions in HPWs are feeling proud, followed by feeling valued, optimistic and cheerful.

The greatest difference between HPWs and LPWs is in feeling proud, followed by feeling valued. Employees in HPWs are proud of their organisations and feel valued by their colleagues and, importantly, by their immediate supervisor.

Leadership – the HPW Index comprises these areas:
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor has a clear vision or goal for the future of this organisation
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor is clear about his/her values and demonstrates the values
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor is highly competent in his/her role as a leader of the organisation
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor responds well to feedback and criticism
Developmental: My immediate supervisor supports and encourages staff development and learning
Developmental: My immediate supervisor gives recognition and acknowledgement to staff
Developmental: My immediate supervisor fosters involvement and cooperation among staff
Developmental: My immediate supervisor is innovative and encourages thinking about problems in new ways
Developmental: My immediate supervisor gives people opportunities to lead work assignments and activities
People Management: My immediate supervisor prioritises people management as a number one priority

“High performing organisations are not just much more profitable and productive, they also perform better in many important “intangible attributes”, such as encouraging innovation, leadership of their people, and creating a fair workplace environment.” (Steve Vamoz, SKE President, from the report’s foreword)

“SKE president Steve Vamos says the report is a call to action. “It provides clear evidence that improving Australia’s productivity – or effectiveness at work and performance of our workplaces – is and will be largely a function of our commitment to developing leadership and management capabilities across organisations in our economy.” ” (AFR Boss Magazine, October 2011)

SKE, Society for Knowledge Economics
SKE media release and link to report
AFR Boss Magazine  – Boss Magazine is published on the second Friday of each month and provided free with the Australian Financial Review

Acknowledgement: Thank you AFR!

Job satisfaction is not enough

You would expect that if employees have high job satisfaction then organisations would experience high job performance and staff retention.  This is only part of the story.  Thomas A. Wright (Professor of Management at Kansas State University) and his colleagues reveal through their research that psychological wellbeing is the critical factor.

In reviewing the history of research on this topic, Wright found that early organisational theorists found inconsistent results between the ‘job satisfaction leads to job performance / staff retention’ theory. Yet years before that, in the 1920s and 1930s, a rare few researchers noted that employee wellbeing was a greater contributor to labour turnover than was commonly realised.

It’s only lately that researchers such as Wright and his colleagues are again interested in the relationship between employee wellbeing and job performance. Their recent findings support the early theories that there is a significant relationship between employee wellbeing, psychological wellbeing and job performance and staff retention. That is, job satisfaction alone is not enough to predict performance and retention.

Wright points out that the positive states which characterise psychological wellbeing also help people to “thrive, to mentally flourish and psychologically grow.” He suggests that employees with high levels of psychological wellbeing and who are satisfied with their job are “more easily able to ‘broaden and build’ themselves…and as a result these satisfied and psychologically well individuals will reap such additional benefits as being more creative, resilient, socially connected, physically healthy and derive more meaning from their work”. Such people also have the resources to “initiate, foster, facilitate and sustain high levels of job performance”. In summary:

  • Job performance is highest when employees have high levels of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction
  • Job satisfaction predicts job performance but only if the employee also has high psychological wellbeing
  • The relationship between job satisfaction and retention is also stronger when employees have high levels of psychological wellbeing

“The promotion of employee psychological wellbeing is an intrinsic good for both individuals and organizations; one toward which we should all work” (Wright)

“Happiness is a broad and subjective word, but a person’s well-being includes the presence of positive emotions, like joy and interest, and the absence of negative emotions, like apathy and sadness, Wright said.  An excessive negative focus in the workplace could be harmful, such as in performance evaluations where negatives like what an employee failed to do are the focus of concentration, he said. When properly implemented in the workplace environment, positive emotions can enhance employee perceptions of finding meaning in their work. Happiness is not only a responsibility to ourselves, but also to our co-workers, who often rely on us to be steadfast and supportive.” (K-State media release)

Employee Engagement and Wellbeing

The Gallup Organisation recently reported similar findings to Wright’s.  They undertook a global study of 47,361 employees.  Gallup notes that employee engagement is significantly impacted by employees’ personal wellbeing. Wellbeing is measured by reference to how people rate the quality of their lives overall, and how they rate their emotional states.
Among the workers studied, the wellbeing component shows up in these statistics:

  • 95% of the engaged workers said they were treated with respect
  • 88% said they experienced enjoyment for much of the day
  • Actively disengaged employees are more likely that engaged employees to say they felt stressed for much of the day (this impacts physical and emotional health)
  • Actively disengaged employees are twice as likely as engaged employees to say they experienced anger in their day.

“Happy workers are not magic, but they can give a workplace that extra boost” (Ed Diener, quoted in Gallup Management Journal)


Wright makes a number of recommendations which can help enhance psychological wellbeing:

  • Put people into appropriate work situations which maximize psychological wellbeing
  • Train people to help improve job fit
  • Adapt the work conditions as best as possible to help employees maximize psychological wellbeing
  • Put people who are psychologically well, socially responsible and ethically strong into leadership positions; in turn they contribute to creating healthy organizations
  • Provide stress management training
  • Emphasise social support at work
  • Implement family friendly policies
  • Provide training and implement policies which emphasize the broaden and build theory

Gallup points out “Ideally, high employee wellbeing creates a virtuous cycle: workers who are happier and more content with their lives make for a more productive workplace, and that greater productivity leads to successes that boost their wellbeing even further. Too often, the reverse seem to be a vicious cycle: low worker productivity is accompanied by high levels of pessimism and physical health problems, which, in turn, lower productivity.
In environments like these, employers must be concerned with doing whatever they can to help workers avoid ‘negativity traps’.”

Like Wright, Gallup suggests that employees are placed in the right job and they feel supported and appreciated.


Wright, T.A. (2010). More than Meets the Eye: The Role of Employee Well-Being in Organizational Research, In Linley, P. A., Harrington, S. & Garcea, N (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology and work (pp. 143-154). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

“K-State researcher says happy employees are critical for an organization’s success” (February 2009)  http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/feb09/wellbeing20309.html

“A Good Job Means a Good Life” (Gallup Management Journal, May 2011): http://gmj.gallup.com

Friends at work

How would you respond: “I have a best friend at work” (yes? no?)

Research by the Gallup Organization, based on surveys of 10 million people, reveals that this is one of the best predictors of an organisation’s successful performance. (Note 1)

Why is having a ‘best friend at work’ important? Friends:

  • Provide a source of emotional support and offer encouragement
  • Help reduce stress and increase health
  • Affect our biology and help lower blood pressure
  • Engender trust, which is critical for success at work
  • Provide positive, contagious energy
  • Add meaning in our lives
  • Value, tolerate, appreciate us and cheer us on
  • Are more likely to engage in sharing information, and conversing in non-threatening ways

Friends at work are vital to one’s engagement, satisfaction and motivation at work.

“When you don’t have a friend at work there is no-one to brag to, you can’t share the successes and savour the good moments.” (A client, August 2007)

Gallup’s research shows that:

  • People who have a “best friend” at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work
  • Close friendships at work boosts employee satisfaction by almost 50%
  • The quality of the friendships is the best predictor of happiness and life satisfaction
  • People with at least three close friends at work were 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their job and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their life

Why does it have to be a ‘best’ friend?’ Isn’t having friendships at work dangerous? “Gallup itself would have dropped the statement if not for one stubborn fact: it predicts performance. Something about a deep sense of affiliation with the people in an employee’s team drives him/her to do positive things for the business he/she otherwise would not do…..Subsequent large-scale, multi-company analyses confirmed that this question is a scientifically salient ingredient in obtaining a number of [critical] business-relevant outcomes.” (Note 2)

From the Australian Financial Review (7 August 2007)

“It may be time to revise the saying that work and private lives should not mix. A survey from the US shows that employees believe productivity improves when colleagues are also friends….63% of employees think being pals is better for business.”

From the Australian Financial Review’s Boss Magazine (May 2007)

“Research shows that employees who have a friendly relationship with the boss that doesn’t overstep the mark are usually happier and more productive.”

“The best managers encourage friendships in the workplace by creating the conditions under which such relationships thrive.” (Note 2)

Is ‘nurturing friendships’ in your strategic business plan?
In your personal development plan, where do ‘friendships’ feature?
What are you doing to be a better friend to your co-workers?
What are you doing to create an environment at work in which friendships can flourish?


(1) The Gallup Organization developed their Q12 in the late 1990s. The Q12 comprises the twelve questions which are most powerful in explaining employees’ productive motivations on the job i.e. whether people are engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged at work. Gallup now has 10 million sets of responses, in 41 languages across 114 countries.

(2) “12: The Elements of Great Managing” Rodd Wagner & James Harter (2006)

(3) Other sources: “Social Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman (2006), and “Vital Friends” by Tom Rath (2006)


This article…
…aims to provide you and your teams with information for your professional and personal development. Topics are based on areas of interest raised by clients and colleagues, with material drawn from journals, books, articles and shared experiences.

© Amanda Horne Pty Ltd, September 2007