“There’s no time like the present” takes on a new meaning in today’s VUCA business world.
VUCA, originally a military term, is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity — it has become the norm many people face every day on the job. And it’s a big problem.
How is this pertinent to your business?
According to recent research by Gallup, 51 percent of the 100 million full-time employees in the U.S. say they aren’t engaged at work. Translation: They feel no real connection to their jobs and as a result are mostly just “dialing it in” by doing the bare minimum. (Perhaps you know some of these folks?)
Then there’s another 16 percent who are “actively disengaged” – meaning they resent their jobs, tend to complain a lot and drag down company morale. Turns out, these disengaged people feel their needs aren’t being met at work, aren’t sure what’s expected of them and aren’t even sure what the company direction is about beyond the bottom line.
There’s also the added stress of keeping up with the tsunami of technology, data, information, communications, digital/social media and meetings that bombard managers and workers every minute of every day!
The bottom line: Disengaged and unhappy employees cost businesses between $450 and $550 billion annually in productivity (The Engagement Institute, Mental Health America). This is money companies will never get back.
Where does mindfulness fit into this environment?
In case you haven’t already seen, heard, or experienced it in some fashion, mindfulness (the practice of being present) and its close cousin emotional intelligence (EI, the ability to recognize your emotions and why you’re feeling them) already have been adopted in approximately 21 percent of companies around the U.S. And the good news is it’s on the rise, as 22 percent planned to add some type of mindfulness program in 2017-2018.
Companies like Apple, Google, Aetna, Target, General Mills, Intel, Green Mountain Roasters, Eileen Fischer, LinkedIn, SAP and many others have all implemented mindfulness and EI programs into their work environments. Why? These companies have found that mindfulness/EI leads to enhanced leadership, performance and wellbeing — which, in turn, is also good for the bottom line.
For example: A program at Aetna where more than 13,000 employees participated in one of their wellness programs over three years showed that participants regained 62 minutes of productivity per week, translating into an approximate dollar return of more than $3,000.
Backed by science with a dose of improved wellbeing
However, do not just take dozens of Fortune 500 companies’ word for it (and hundreds of mainstream media reports on the subject). Mindfulness/EI programs got in the door to these companies due to current neuroscience research supporting that mindfulness meditation and EI practices lead to beneficial structural and functional changes in areas of the brain related to attentional control, emotional management and self-awareness.
In essence, understanding how the brain works and using mindfulness practices to train emotional intelligence skills leads to better leadership, performance and wellbeing. (Hint: the secret sauce.)
To date, there are approximately 6,838 scientific articles and studies on the effects of mindfulness, meditation and emotional intelligence. (Note: For a full discussion of these findings, there’s a new book out called Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, considered to be two of the top authorities on the subject.)
How to get in on the secret sauce
Simply put, train your current and/or promote new managers with mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills. Whether you’re a company with 10, 100 or 1000+ employees, having self-aware, emotionally intelligent managers is a positive way to help turn disengaged employees into becoming engaged, self-aware and able to decide for themselves if they have the motivation to be part of a cohesive team. Creating a positive environment, with common goals and an “everyone’s in it together” attitude goes a long way in keeping people engaged.
This is again consistent with leading research by Gallup. In one study of 7,272 U.S. adults, it found that 50 percent of employees left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.” We’ve all heard how this scenario plays out over and over. In general, people leave bad managers, not good companies.