Robert C. Pini
In a recently released study, the Gallup opinion poll and research organization documented that managers who effectively set goals and provide productive conditions tend to have contented employees and better business results. Although this may seem somewhat self-evident, the 30-year study is the first with hard data that links attitudes to financial outcomes.
"It's been a controversial subject," said Robert House, professor of organizational studies at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School in Philadelphia.
The study looked primarily at retail, health care and financial industries, but it also examined some business units in telecommunications and in research. Across the different sectors, the relationship held between an employee-focused style of management and a good bottom line.
According to House, the findings indicate that results from a happy business unit can bubble over and affect the fortunes of the entire firm. "Although [the researchers] have only gotten data from specific units, they have aggregated them and shown that the link holds in earnings at the company level," he said.
"We are simply in a new era," said Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization. "Machines don't matter, minds do. And to be successful, companies must engage the minds and talents of each employee." Coffman works with firms to create productive work environments.
Although managers may give regular beatings to get the bottom line they want, the study warns against using "good bottom line" as the sole measure of good management.
"Good management could be just the bottom line," said Tom Gallagher, the marketing manager for Spectra Gases Inc. in Irvington, N.J. Yet overemphasis on short-term returns is not good management, he said. "If you're talking long range, you have to make the environment better."
"You have to have a positive attitude," said Debbie Hunt, sales director for Rocky Mountain Instrument Co. in Longmont, Colo. Describing how the optical supply house achieves its goals, Hunt said, "A lot of times, people just need positive strokes."