Work wellbeing while working well

Workplaces are increasingly diverse and dynamic, making it imperative to innovate (Anderson, Potocnik, & Zhou, 2014). At the same time, employee wellbeing is paramount to a company’s reputation and the longevity of its workforce (Huhtala & Parzefall, 2007). Cultivating wellbeing and innovation in tandem, therefore, provides a strong foundation for organisations to flourish.

Several studies examine the positive impact of supportive leaders on wellbeing and innovation, however few researchers have distilled the specific leadership behaviours that drive these outcomes (George & Zhou, 2007). Professors Choi (Korea University), Tran (University of Ulsan), and Kang (Gachon University) address this gap by investigating inclusive leadership, which they define as leader openness, accessibility and availability to meet employees’ needs.

The researchers sought to determine whether inclusive leadership behaviours positively impact employee wellbeing and innovation. Moreover, they wanted to understand the underlying processes that could explain these positive effects. In essence, the researchers found that inclusive leadership enhances employees’ perceptions that they are a good fit for their job role, and in turn, this acts as a catalyst to bolster wellbeing and innovative behaviours.

Aim

The aim was to explore the effects of inclusive leadership by answering the following research questions:

  1. How does inclusive leadership impact wellbeing?
  2. How does inclusive leadership impact innovation?
  3. What is the underlying mechanism that explains how inclusive leadership impacts upon wellbeing and innovation?
Method

An online survey was administered to 207 employees across five telecommunication organisations in Vietnam. The survey evaluated:

  • Wellbeing. Sample item: “In the past six months, I have felt energetic”.
  • Innovation. Sample item: “I search out new working methods, techniques, or instruments”.
  • Inclusive leadership. Sample item: “My manager is open to hearing new ideas”.
  • Person-job fit. Sample item: “My skills and abilities perfectly match with my job demands”.
Findings

Inclusive leadership had positive effects on both employee wellbeing (β= .19, p <.01) and innovation (β = .19, p <.05).

But how did inclusive leadership exert these positive effects?

Findings indicated that the underlying mechanism was an improved fit between individuals and their job role. Inclusive leadership was found to enhance experiences of person-job fit and this in turn improved wellbeing and innovation (wellbeing, .04, p <.05; innovation, .07 < .05).

Consistent with leader-member exchange theory, inclusive leadership may help to cultivate high-quality relationships between leaders and their followers (Carmeli, Palmon, & Ziv, 2010). This results in greater attentiveness to followers’ unique needs, desires and preferences, enabling followers to experience better fit with their job role. When employees feel congruence between their unique skills and the demands of their job, this has been shown to lower exhaustion and increase satisfaction, confidence, motivation and a desire to learn (Babakus, Yavas, & Ashill, 2011).

Implications

Organisations looking to develop employee wellbeing and innovation should consider increasing the presence of inclusive leadership behaviours through:

  • Communication of the benefits of inclusive leadership to leaders to build their commitment.
  • Leader training in inclusive leadership-specific competencies such as leader openness, accessibility, and availability.
  • HR practices such as recognition and reward systems that reinforce inclusive leadership behaviours.

Alongside cultivating inclusive leadership, improving employee perceptions of their fit with their job seems a viable avenue for enhancing wellbeing and innovation. Actionable steps include:

  • Recruitment, selection, and socialisation processes that focus on enhancing employee perceptions of person-job fit (e.g., valid selection assessments to ensure candidates have skills that match the job role).
  • Extra seminars, courses, or workshops to help current employees develop the skills and abilities necessary for their jobs.
  • Performance assessment procedures that allow managers to examine employees’ unique skills and allocate jobs/tasks accordingly.

Inclusive leadership together with improved person-job fit is likely to have a multiplicative effect in driving benefits on wellbeing and innovative performance. The combination of wellbeing and performance lends a powerful competitive edge in the contemporary work environment.

For more information, contact Andrea Espedido

To read the full article, see Choi, S. B., Tran, T. B. H., & Kang, S. W. (2017). Inclusive leadership and employee wellbeing: The mediating role of person-job fit. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18, 1877-1901.

References

Anderson, N., Potocnik, K., & Zhou, J. (2014). Innovation and creativity in organizations: A state-of-the-science review, prospective commentary, and guiding framework. Journal of Management, 40(5), 1297-1333.

Carmeli, A., Reiter-Palmon, R., & Ziv, E. (2010). Inclusive leadership and employee involvement in creative tasks in the workplace: The mediating role of psychological safety. Creativity Research Journal, 22(3), 250-260.

George, J. M., & Zhou, J. (2007). Dual tuning in supportive context: Joint conributions of positive mood, negative mood, and supervisory behaviors to employee creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 52(4), 765-778.

Huhtala, H. & Parzefall, M. R. (2007). Promotion of employee wellbeing and innovativeness: An opportunity for a mutual benefit. Creativity and Innovation Management, 16(3), 299-307.

Ohly, S., & Fritz, C. (2010). Work characteristics, challenge appraisal, creativity, and proactive behaviour: A multi-level study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(4), 543-565.


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