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Tomasin Magwood

FranklinCovey UK & Ireland


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How HR can prolong that post-holiday feeling


Picture the scene – staff are returning to the office at the end of the summer holiday season. They’re feeling relaxed, recharged and revitalised.

The potential for greater productivity and creativity should be at its highest but, in most cases, it will remain largely untapped as normality quickly kicks in with energy and motivation sapped by the whirlwind of daily activity.

But what if normality was different and a little more like that post-holiday feeling for individuals and the organisation as a whole? Is it achievable and, if so, what can HR do to make it happen?

In FranklinCovey’s experience, it certainly can be attained and the key lies in a greater understanding of the intrinsic factors that drive people and keep them balanced and motivated to work.

Sadly, however, very few HR practitioners appear to have sight of the four main drivers for employee motivation – dimensions which mirror those of human nature – physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional.

Highlighted more than 25 years ago by Dr Stephen R Covey in his acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, these so-called 'four dimensions of renewal' are critical when it comes to understanding employee engagement.

All dimensions require continuous attention – or renewal – in order to remain in balance and to enable each to flourish. Holidays are often the times of the year when most renewal takes place, as individuals spend time on themselves and their loved ones.

But on returning to work, the benefits can be quickly undone, as even neglecting one dimension is proven to have a negative impact on the other three.

Create an engaged environment

Every employee will have their own unique combination of drivers which are often complex and deeply personal, yet the most successful leaders and HR departments manage to bring out the best in people by applying all four dimensions to create an environment where every person’s internal source of motivation is engaged.

HR departments can also apply the four dimensions to provide a valuable perspective of organisation-wide drivers, enabling them to strive for a balance that will enhance the culture, improve perceptions both internally and externally and increase overall effectiveness.

The first dimension – physical – covers exercise, nutrition, rest and stress management. It is well known that individuals who look after their bodies are generally better prepared to tackle daily tasks and challenges.

Within the workplace, in its simplest form, continuous renewal in this dimension can be supported by an organisation’s care for its people and the provision of a safe, comfortable working environment.

Applied to organisations, the dimension relates to making money. While a profitable existence is vital, organisations should ensure this isn’t seen as their sole motivation. Striking a balance with the other three dimensions will help to create an environment that’s lower on internal politics and higher on productivity.

The second dimension – spiritual – is more complex, drawing on the variety of beliefs and values that inspire and uplift individuals, providing leadership to their lives.

At work, it relates to people’s sense of meaning and there are many ways that HR departments can guide leaders and managers to help individuals understand the purpose of the work they do, and tie it in more directly to their personal sense of contribution and service.

When applied to organisations, the spiritual dimension relates to meaning through purpose or contribution, as well as organisational integrity. In practice, this means HR playing its part in ensuring that an appropriate vision/mission is in place, reinforced by values that are applied consistently at all levels.

The third dimension – mental – is about individuals developing mentally through reading, writing, learning and study. It’s a dimension that’s often neglected once formal education ends, but it can be re-established in the workplace through training, as well as promoting a general culture of sharing of knowledge and information.

HR departments will be integral to establishing such a learning culture with one of their most important roles being to encourage leaders and managers to reward learning and growth. Equally, they have an important part to play in equipping senior team members with the skills they need to lead and manage change.

Exercising the first three dimensions on an individual basis requires the allocation of time on a daily basis. However, the last dimension – social/emotional – is different in that it can be exercised through everyday interaction with colleagues and customers.

This dimension is made up of social and emotional factors which are interlinked because strong, healthy relationships lead to higher levels of personal security.

Relationships, as well as organisational cultures, develop gradually, with trust being key to both. At FranklinCovey, we use the metaphor of an emotional bank account into which regular small deposits can be made. These deposits may include being courteous, providing good service or considering someone else’s point of view before arriving at a mutually agreeable solution.

From an organisational perspective, the social and emotional dimension relates to human interaction and, particularly, how people are treated and how issues are dealt with at all levels.

Importance of balance

The impact on motivation (and staff turnover) needs no explanation but it is important to recognise the importance of balance with the other three dimensions. Organisations that focus on the heart at the expense of the economic criteria of the body tend to have little measure or gauge of their effectiveness and, consequently, reduce efficiency and eventually their viability in the marketplace.

Sustaining the high levels of effectiveness typically seen in the post-holiday period requires development and continuous improvement of all four dimensions of human nature.

While individuals are ultimately in control, organisations must play their part to ensure that renewal happens 52 weeks of the year – not just for two weeks over the summer.

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Tomasin Magwood


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