Saturday, January 26, 2013

Identifying the Drivers of Happiness

A Chief Executive of a factory complex that manufactures brand name software components is being interviewed about his efforts to improve working conditions for his 1,000,000 employees.
"No one in our industry is doing more to improve  the life of our employees...We are constantly auditing facilities, going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems,...fixing problems and we report everything because we believe that transparency is...very important in this area."*
However, his impressive answer could not hide the fact that within a 4 year period, 18 fatal employee incidents were linked to suicide. How can we apply this situation to the ATC environment? 
To improve workplace wellbeing in ATC, working conditions of ATCOs must improve. This requires an honest look at the management style of ATC units as well as identifying the drivers of happiness. These drivers will be our tools to help us  find innovative solutions to problems of wellbeing.  
In the investigation at the outset, the managers defended themselves by claiming that the employees are paid above the country's minimum wage, that working conditions are better compared to other factories, that the employees know their legal rights and they proudly declared that they sent 60,000 employees on free courses. But that figure is just a little more than 5%. Though they tried to fabricate a good impression, their actions showed that they are not interested in their employees' wellbeing. Their idea of improving the lives of their employees meant installing suicide nets around the compound in response to the deaths.

Can you describe your workplace culture in your ATC unit?

To reiterate, the efforts of management whether good or bad, will not go unnoticed by the employees. One employee of that company noted that management is strict and when working there is no time to think about whether the work is dull or boring.  
The behavior of managers, their reputation, their relationship with the employees and their policies determine to a large extent the culture of the workplace. This culture determines the size of effort required to improve workplace wellbeing. What kind of workplace culture exists in your ATC unit? Also, how would you describe the efforts of your management towards workplace wellbeing? 

What are the drivers of happiness in the ATC environment?

Improving wellbeing in ATC calls for a definite set of valid objectives and a savoir-faire that includes flexibility, strategy and innovation.  This calls into question the hiring process of managers for ATC units. That will be the focus of another post.  
Secondly, we need to identify the drivers of happiness in the ATC work environment.  In the preliminary study of 139 ATCOs worldwide, they were asked to rank different elements  of work happiness and these controllers decided that the most important drivers in descending order of importance are: recognition, the environment and compensation.
How can managers use these drivers in a practical manner to improve wellbeing by promoting work-life balance in ATC? What practical application can ATCOs and their assistants make? These questions will be answered on Wednesday. Here is a hint:

* (01/2013) (01/2013)
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