Last month, we presented a few numbers specific to our industry and suggested some opportunities – including FNA 2016 – to motivate employees and keep your businesses moving in a good direction. This month, we continue with a more general discussion of business and employees.

The Fortune 500 issue from June is the place I gleaned much of this insight. Fortune surveys CEOs of the 500 for their perspectives on the state of business. I find it useful to see what these influential players have to say about the current and future expectations for their businesses. If nothing else, it will help us to see how our companies compare to a large aggregate group and why business might look as it does.

What are the top challenges of the Fortune 500? CEOs say the rapid pace of technological change is the top challenge facing their companies. Coming in a strong second is increasing regulations. We regularly try to point out where proposed regulations might impact your business. Cybersecurity is believed to be number three.

In line with the top challenge faced, 97% of CEOs surveyed said their companies will change more in the next five years than in the past five. At Industrial Heating, we see technology impacts increasing in our “making, shaping and treating” industry. This is why we have a dedicated newsletter to focus on additive manufacturing (AM). Check out our 3D printing/AM article as well as Furnace Operator 2020 for this month’s look at technology and the future.

Last month, I mentioned that our economic indicators seem to show a mixed business picture – up, down and steady. Nearly half (49%) of the Fortune 500 CEOs think the outlook for the global economy in the next 12 months is flat. The balance are either up (31%) or down (20%). Sound familiar?

While profits and revenues were down in 2015, 11.1% and 4.2% respectively, employment was up 4% from last year. Additionally, 70% of these CEOs expected to employ more people two years from now. In spite of this, U.S. companies have “cut more jobs so far in 2016 than at the same point in any year since 2009.” The obvious conclusion from these facts is that productivity is down.

Speaking of unpopular decisions such as workforce reductions, this same issue of Fortune has a short article on leadership and how to do necessary but unpopular things. They say that successful leaders solve this challenge in three ways.

  • Ask for help. Employees might be asked to help management find ways to save money or inform them about ideas for eliminating pointless tasks.
  • Show personal commitment. Corporate leaders need to be willing to suffer along with those they lead.
  • Remember that people want to be led. People are “willing to tolerate unpopular decisions that are part of a clear, strong plan that they understand.”

Interestingly, another survey of employees at 500 organizations in 70 countries by Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) found that one way to deal with the aforementioned productivity dip is to keep employees happy. A GCC data scientist indicated, “The connection is clear: happy employees are high-performing employees. Leaders who understand this and initiate happy habits can reap the rewards from a more productive workforce.”

The connection may be clear, but the challenge is as well. A recent U.K. study found that employee happiness was reduced 8% by just being at work. This was a close second to being sick.

If we ask how we can influence our employees’ happiness, GCC Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Batman has an answer from the survey. Our advice is to listen to Batman who said, “Happiness is a healthy habit. Reflecting on achievement, practicing gratitude and saying thanks are small things, but our findings show they add up to a big (happiness) difference.”

We will be happy to see you at FNA. Stop by our booth (525) to say hello.