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Essay

Is Your Mindfulness Training Program Working?

To ensure mindfulness initiatives are having a meaningful impact on the workforce and the organization’s bottom line, measure their effects.

By Max Dubowy
co_1219_lead_302Are mindfulness initiatives a marketing tactic to inspire recruitment efforts, or is mindfulness truly an effective tool to increase workplace productivity and organizational happiness? Some might argue it’s a combination of both.

You’ve likely heard stories about private meditation sanctuaries at Salesforce and employee nap rooms at Zappos. So, you know global organizations are indeed deploying mindfulness programs to employees and key stakeholders. If you’ve already incorporated a mindfulness program in your company, or you’re considering doing so, it’s in your favor to measure and monitor the program’s effectiveness. This helps your organization:

  • Study and analyze longitudinal employee absenteeism, stress and turnover rates.
  • Determine the correlation between mindfulness tools and productivity.
  • Understand if mindfulness is, in fact, a useful tool for employee happiness and well-being.

Your mindfulness program needs to measure these variables to determine whether or not it’s affecting the bottom line.

In learning and development, we tend to treat mindfulness and every other training competency like science. In every science experiment there’s a hypothesis. For instance, “If we deploy a mindfulness program at Acme Inc., we estimate employee productivity will increase by 17 percent, and employee absenteeism will decrease by 8 percent.”

Once you determine your hypothesis, you want to confirm your measurements. In our example, we’re measuring productivity and employee absenteeism. But before you run off to test your experiment, you need to set up systems to collect data, potentially including the following:

  • The experience-sampling method, where participants report their momentary thoughts, feelings and behaviors at different points in time over the course of a day.
  • The diary method.
  • Employee attendance and/or engagement trackers.

When you have a data collection method, you can create a controlled environment to assess whether or not your mindfulness initiatives are adding to your bottom line. Whichever way you collect data, be sure to make room for external factors that could disrupt the data set. For example, did you run the experiment during a massive layoff? If so, that circumstance could contribute to an exorbitant amount of stress. Be sure to take these factors into consideration.

It’s also best to run your mindfulness experiments against a control group. Perhaps 10 leaders in your organization take a mindfulness retreat, while 10 other leaders continue working their normal schedule. Once the retreat is over and all 20 leaders are back in their normal work routines, collect data points around communication, productivity and engagement for a total of 30 days. After the experiment, compare each group, analyze the data, and draw conclusions.

Some of the most effective data that organizations often ignore is qualitative data. According to the Eastern Kentucky University’s occupational safety infographic, companies spend roughly $300 billion annually for health care and missed workdays due to workplace stress. Companies capture general data around stress, but they rarely take the time to measure employee well-being through surveys and interviews. Leaders should set up ways to ask employees questions about stress and offer immediate solutions like training to avoid long-term setbacks such as high turnover rates and absenteeism.

Organizational psychologists can start asking employees confidential questions like:

  • What’s creating stress for you at work?
  • How have you tried to reduce stress?
  • How can we help make you successful in your role without creating stress?

This is the qualitative data you need to capture before a mindfulness training program is deployed, otherwise, you’ll never know whether or not the program is actually successful.

Now that professional environments have turned into 24/7 work cultures, it’s critical to understand the causes and effects of stress so you can measure the effectiveness of short and long-term mindfulness initiatives.

Max DuBowy is an executive mindfulness coach and the CEO of Your Success Launch. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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