Organisation Health – a brief guide

Organisation Health - Introduction

Download our Management Standards for Healthy Organisations

Organisation Health is taken to mean an organisation with a workplace culture and environment where employees thrive and work at a performance level which is beyond expectations, over the long term.

Healthy organisations create the cultural environment that infects everyone with a positive attitude towards work. This nudges people to feel well at work, even if they may have good cause to feel unwell, either from ill health or from adverse events outside work.

Using the word infects is important here because a culture that does infect people with a positive attitude plays directly to social proof. Where people look around and see others feeling and performing positively, they tend to follow. It’s not true for everyone – McKinsey research in this field suggests that, even in healthy organisations, some 18% of the workforce will not be elevated from a sense of antagonism towards the workplace. This is a high proportion, but it’s worth remembering that 82% will be elevated to perform at their best by influencing the cultural environment within which people work.

This will be reflected in low rates of staff turnover, absenteeism and falling claims of harassment, bullying, and discrimination along with high levels of quality, performance and motivation.

Healthy organisations are characterised as places with:

  • A buzz with high level performance
  • A capacity to respond effectively to internal and external pressures faster and more effectively than their competitors
  • A capacity to renew themselves rapidly
  • A capacity to determine their own future and shape their own destiny
  • A capacity to be ‘ambidextrous – deliver effective and efficient products and services at the same time as adapting to changes in their environment.

The Features of Organisation Health

The following features create and sustain Organisation Health:

Purpose - a clearly understood purpose – understood by employees and customers/clients/patients, combined with clearly understood goals and criteria for success.

Cultural foundations and values – a clearly established and formulated intention to manage the organisation with cultural foundations of virtuous intent that promotes wellbeing and performance.

Structure - a structure that is designed to enable decision makers to include staff in the decision making process. This is normally translated as a flat structure. For larger organisations the implication is to establish sub-structures that are as flat as possible, where communication flows both ways easily and accurately.

Policies and processes - policies and processes that are easily understood by employees and consistently applied in practice.  Policies and processes that are designed to generate trust and commitment between the organisation and its managers and employees.  Policies and processes that are designed to promote wellbeing and performance.

Recruitment - processes of recruiting that are open to scrutiny, thorough and consistent in their application. Processes that overtly match the specification of positions with the skills, knowledge and experience of applicants. Processes that overtly test the skills, knowledge and experience of applicants. Processes that match personality and behaviour to the expectations of the role. Processes that encourage every applicant to become interested in joining the organisation, and for those whose application fails, to encourage those with appropriate potential to seek to join the organisation at some time in the future. Processes that feedback to applicants their ‘showing’ on the recruitment day with advice on areas to develop and improve for future applications. Processes that identify the personal characteristics and attributes required of applicants seeking to join the organisation and matching these to the applicants.

Training and Development – programmes that are designed to increase awareness, skills, knowledge and experience, the results of which are purposefully applied into practice with follow-up, learning sets, reviews and audit. Programmes that train employees and managers in the behaviours that produce trust and commitment in the organisation. Programmes that meet the identified needs of individual employees and managers as part of individual development plans. Individual coaching and support programmes for specific personal development needs. Opportunities for secondments and experiences that enhance the personal development of individual employees and managers.

Pay – a pay structure that is transparent and based on fairness taking account of the expectations of the roles and degrees of responsibility towards achieving greater than expected performance. Pay arrangements that influence achievement in wellbeing and performance of all employees. Pay arrangements that financially reward excellence that is transparently achieved and recognisable.

Challenging jobs – jobs that contain periods that stretch managers and employees with tasks and actions that are just beyond their current levels of skills, knowledge and experience. Jobs that apply degrees of pressure for short periods, where managers and employees are expected to concentrate harder than normal to complete the tasks and actions.

Team working – encouraging team working where teams are no larger than 8 people, where the skills, knowledge and experience of members are complementary achieving ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’. Teams where critical appraisal of each other’s work is positively encouraged and observations received with genuine interest and intention to action. Teams where personal concerns are raised and mutual support received.

Communication – abandoning broadcasting and substituting communication based on the intention to receive responses. Communication mainly based on personal interaction. Email policies based on ‘need to know.’ Newsletters based on news and opportunities to contribute and comment.

Involvement – processes that involve managers and employees in the decision making of the organisation. Processes that encourage innovation and ideas about the development of the organisation. Processes that recognise that managers and employees are the organisation, and their involvement in it is crucial for its success.

Performance appraisal – a transparent and regular appraisal of performance based on a combination of wellbeing and performance review. A process that becomes the bloodstream of the organisation, and sought by managers and employees in an atmosphere of encouragement and personal development. A process of reciprocal appraisal where managers are appraised by employees, and employees appraised by managers within a team context.

Career opportunities – opportunities to develop the skills, knowledge and experience of managers and employees by providing new experiences within the organisation or on secondment elsewhere. A process that is transparent and demonstrates the interest of the organisation in the personal development of all managers and employees.

Job security – the processes that enable managers and employees to complete tasks without diversion or cancellation.

Management encouragement – a transparent and consistent process of encouraging employees in their work; praising individuals for excellence and showcasing the exceptional contributions that managers and employees make to the organisation. A process that encourages wellbeing and performance of managers and employees.

Work life balance – a process that responds positively to domestic crisis.

Openness – processes that are transparent and consistent in involving managers and employees in decisions about themselves. Processes that enable all staff to offer unsolicited contributions to the development of the organisation and its people.

The Behaviours of leaders and managers needed to build and sustain Organisation Health

Download our Management Standards for Healthy Organisations

Directors and managers play a pivotal role in provoking high performance in the workforce by creating the environment for staff to thrive, and by behaving towards their staff in ways that result in commitment, trust and engagement between staff, their work and their organisation. These behaviours include:

Attentiveness - the ability to demonstrate genuine attentiveness to the contents of an interaction by demonstrating listening, responsiveness and reaction.

Politeness - the ability to be polite in any interaction

Courtesy - the ability to place the other person (people) at the forefront of an interaction

Personal communication - the ability to communicate personally wherever possible; understanding the limitations of electronic communication.

Body language - the ability to use body movements and expressions to show attentiveness.

Addressing needs - the ability to respond positively to individual needs, even in circumstances when the needs cannot be met, given all the circumstances.

Empathetic - the ability to demonstrate an understanding of the other person’s issues, ideas, thoughts and experiences

Intellectual flexibility - the ability to think on ones feet and respond with credible choices, alternatives and ideas

Emotional intelligence - the ability to be self aware, self regulate, motivate, show empathy and be socially adept

Negotiation - the ability to negotiate a successful outcome in an interaction.

Sharing - the ability to share with others one’s own thoughts and ideas

Reliability - the ability to do what one says

Honesty - the ability to be open in an interaction

Clarity - the ability to be clearly understood in an interaction

Fairness - the ability to be fair to anyone in an interaction, taking account of all the circumstances, and to explain clearly the position that is taken and the reasons

Humility - the ability to acknowledge mistakes, misunderstandings, errors and faults, and to apologise where necessary.

Conflict resolution - the ability to confront a conflict at the time of conflict and to try and resolve any dispute at the time of the dispute.

Encourage contribution - the ability to motivate and encourage others to make a contribution in interactions.

OrganisationHealth focuses on helping individuals, the workforce and organisations to perform at their best by influencing the manager behaviours and cultural environment within which people work.

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