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Want More Productive Workers - Give Them Hope

Shane J. Lopez, Author of "Making Hope Happen"
Friday, 8 Mar 2013 | 10:46 AM ET
Source: amazon.com

American salespeople, Swiss mechanics, and Chinese factory workers all are more productive if they are hopeful.

In an effort to learn more about the universality and nature of the hope-productivity link, I worked with a team of researchers to meta-analyze more than fifty studies on hope and work.

We were able to quantify hope's contribution to productivity. Other conditions being equal, hope leads to a 14% bump in workplace outcomes. Drawing upon my research and findings from studies around the world, I found that there are five characteristics of hopeful employees that make them more productive than other people.

Hopeful workers show up for work.

One recent study by James Avey of Central Washington University showed that high-hope engineers in a high tech firm missed an average of less than three days of work in a 12-month period. Low-hope engineers missed more than 10 days of work each, on average, costing the firm nearly four times as much as their high-hope colleagues in lost productivity. No other workplace measure (including job satisfaction, company commitment, confidence to do the job) counts more than hope in determining whether an employee shows up.

Hopeful workers are more engaged.

Hopeful employees are more likely to go to work than their low-hope colleagues. More importantly, hopeful employees are far more involved and enthusiastic at work, curbing one of many problems eating away at the American economy – the active disengagement of 40% of our workforce. In a study of American workers found that hopeful employees are far more engaged than the hopeless. More than two-thirds of the hopeful employees were involved and enthusiastic at work whereas less than 10% of the hopeless workers were engaged at work.

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"Hope is especially important in organizations experiencing uncertainty due to rapid changes in focus and shifts in leadership." -Shane J. Lopez, Author, "Making Hope Happen"

Hopeful workers are more creative.

Executives at a top financial services group took part in creativity study conducted by Suzanne Peterson of Arizona State University. These execs were given two weeks to come up with as many high-quality solutions as possible to a complex problem. The more hopeful executives produced better, more creative solutions, and submitted many more solutions, possibly strategically, knowing that some would not be viable. Other hope and creativity studies show that hopeful people also are good championing creative ideas.

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Hopeful workers are better during times of adversity and change.

They are resilient in the face of economic adversity and organizational change. Accordingly, research suggests that hope is a more significant predictor of performance in start-up businesses than in more established firms. Why? More hopeful employees love a good challenge and marshal extra psychological and social resources when asked to perform in difficult situations.

Hopeful workers are happy.

Have you ever met a happy, hopeless person? I haven't. When Gallup asked one million people if they smiled or laughed a lot yesterday, the hopeful said yes much more often than did the hopeless. Because of this observation I decided to take a closer look at the overlap between hope and happiness with the help of psychologist Matt Gallagher of Boston University. We asked people if they were hopeful and satisfied with their lives, then measured the presence of good feelings and the absence of bad ones. According to well-being expert Ed Diener of the University of Illinois, someone who is satisfied with life, experiencing positive emotions, and not experiencing negative emotions meets the basic criteria for a happiness diagnosis. We wanted to know if being hopeful predicted (or was predicted by) these symptoms of happiness. Indeed, hope proved to be a strong, unique predictor of satisfaction and emotions. Hope is a symptom of happiness. And hopeful employees are more likely to be happy.

Hopeful employees are the difference makers in our modern economy. Someone who believes she is part of something bigger, that she is making the future better for herself and others, gets more done.

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Shane J. Lopez, a Senior Gallup Scientist, a leading authority on the psychology of hope, and author of "Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others" (Atria Books). Visit makinghopehappenow.com and follow on twitter @hopemonger.

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