Companies can improve the productivity, cooperation and happiness of employees by leveraging natural human emotions, says applied neuroscience multinational Neuroleadership Institute South Africa research and solutions head Rob Jardine.
The psychology of groups can facilitate cooperation and efficiency or can lead to fragmentation and conflict within companies. Similarly, creating inclusive groupings in companies can overcome cultural differences and mitigate bias, leading to more innovative, productive and effective teams.
“People have a built-in need to associate with and operate in groups. Inclusion leads to feelings of happiness, cooperation and collaboration, while exclusion leads to angst, anger and demotivation. Social inclusion or exclusion affects the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that processes physical pain.”
Therefore, companies aiming to gain the most from their employees should look at encouraging social formations and groupings within the commercial environment. Various digital and nondigital tools and practices can readily improve the workplace environment.
“When people feel included and valued, empirical experiments have demonstrated, they are more willing to volunteer insights, work to help others, cooperate, collaborate and are better able to think and reason. They also experience better physical health and happiness.”
Moreover, the psychology of groups can also be leveraged to unite multicultural and multiregional teams, such as those present in South African companies and multinational corporations, highlights Jardine.
The most effective teams are usually the most heterogeneous. Techniques to encourage feelings of inclusiveness and social connectivity can enable these groups to function more efficiently.
For example, absenteeism is lower if employees have personal connections or friendships with coworkers. However, groupings in commercial environments must be open by design, as they could otherwise serve as another source of exclusion and fragmentation.
“Experiments carried out by the Neuroleadership Institute have found that something as simple as being excluded from communications, such as emails, is interpreted as an attack on the person’s position and/or function.”
This causes the brain to react by focusing on the perceived exclusion and not on the objective. Feelings of inclusion and value cause the brain to focus on the objectives and benefits of the group or team, to work towards the perceived mutually beneficial goals and to experience less stress even when working long hours, adds Jardine.
“Use technology to build connections between employees and between regional offices,” he advises.
Companies can make space available for social inclusion by encouraging debates on specific topics, creating online forums and communities and including all those who contribute to the process in these groupings, not only the core team or division.
Promoting inclusiveness and associations are also effective at overcoming cultural differences in businesses, avers Jardine.