Return on Positivity

More and more organizations are realizing the benefits of creating a positive working environment.

By HRH Princess Noor Bint Asem

There is a rippling shift in consciousness around the globe, where organizations are increasingly aware of the need to develop positive corporate cultures both internally and externally. This means tending to the overall well-being of employees and society, as well as addressing the relational and human aspects of employee engagement.

Traditional systems focus on process efficiency and compensation-based incentives as a way to drive performance, ignoring the importance of the emotional and meaning-seeking aspects of human beings. Metrics such as return on investment (ROI) and similar quantitative-type indicators do a good job of measuring performance after the fact. Nonetheless, these types of indicators cannot measure the impact of initiatives and investments that aim to improve performance by increasing the sense of meaning and engagement employees feel in their jobs. One such indicator we propose is return on positivity (ROP).

Studies emerging from the fields of human behavior and positive psychology are increasingly showing that a positive work environment is a key element in driving business performance. A culture of positivity that’s mindful of the organization’s responsibility towards its employees and society is an important predictor of how that organization performs and is perceived.

There’s a direct correlation between positivity and increased levels of creativity, employee engagement, and sense of well-being. This isn’t surprising, as happier employees make for happier and more effective organizations. For instance, companies such as Virgin and Google that devote considerable resources to employee comfort tend to attract the best talent and consistently outperform their competitors. Simple ideas, such as Virgin’s unlimited vacations or Google allowing their employees to spend 20 percent of their working hours on projects of their choosing, are examples of initiatives that support the creation of a positive environment.

While these examples may be particularly headline-grabbing, they still point to a new modus operandi where traditional ways of going about business are challenged. A good example closer to home is Zain’s innovation campus, ZINC. This initiative serves as a fertile experimental bed to grow a culture of positivity through forward looking innovation and leadership. Through this project, Zain addresses employee engagement and development, and allows the company to be a positive catalyst in societal transformation.

Creating a sustainable positive change in an organization requires visionary leadership, commitment and follow-through at every level. All members, from the CEO to the janitor, need to speak, think and behave in alignment with their organization’s core values, philosophy, and stated vision. This means the organization needs to openly communicate that a culture of positivity is a shared responsibility, and a transformative journey in which both individual and collective are expected to adopt new modes of being and doing. While this doesn’t happen overnight, if everything within the organization is working in sync, and the organization’s leadership leads by example, then the organizational culture will change—perhaps slower than a leader might like, but perceptible change nonetheless.

The positive energy created by a well communicated strategy backed up by clear tactics that together are congruent with the vision of a positive culture can galvanize an organization to create a massive positive shift in performance.

Now, what’s the ROP in your organization?