Mindfulness is a Magnet for Recruitment & Retention
As HR professionals know, recruitment efforts have evolved exponentially in our fast changing world. Waiting for the hot resume to land on your desk is no longer a talent strategy, replaced by exploring multiple talent platforms and taking into consideration a complex web of factors in the hopes of hiring the best fit for the job and the workplace culture.
Gone are the days of passive attraction. In this proactive recruitment reality, it’s also important to know how and what will best attract and retain the right people. As a result, the face and space of the progressive workplace has opened up to create cultures which inspire just those actions. Coupled with the growing concerns about the continued rise of stress levels and nearly epidemic anxiety in our lives, many HR professionals have been ‘minding’ the office for employee and organizational gain — applying their experience and influence to their workplace cultures and branding to inspire a sense of calm, collaboration and engagement.
Creating Inspiring and Inviting Environments
We all know the importance fostering positive first impressions, but how far have we applied that to the workplace, and what impact might it have? Imagine the impact of creating a physical environment that emanates creativity energy and a sense of open peacefulness to a prospective new employee stepping in for a first interview. Rather than bland mission statements and modern art — both of which are too often devoid of meaning and aesthetics — consider what changes in your office decor and decorum might better robe the workplace as an appealing reflection of what is honoured in your company’s purpose and mission.
For example, envision the reception area with a wall full of golden words tastefully representing core values such as peace of mind, collaboration, mindfulness, creativity, awareness, prosperity, potential, and so on. I will never forget walking into such an office in the U.S. once, many years ago and being awestruck by the forward thinking and boldness of these words speaking for themselves on the company’s behalf.
What I have reflected on since is that all such changes are first born in the mind, and with mindfulness gaining greater corporate allure, the number of wonder walls is only likely to grow — alongside more appealing (and retentive) cultures.
Guiding the Mind Away From Stress
Therapist, author and corporate workplace consultant Dr. Steven Lake, agrees that as we train the mind to be attentive and focused we become better able to counter the stress and extreme distractibility to which we are all subjected these days.
Integrating such practices in the workplace culture, Lake says, can be important and also helps to retain employees, especially those who are in extremely stressful jobs such as first responders. Having provided critical incident, debriefing group sessions for organizations, Lake believes that encouraging employers and employees alike in ongoing mindfulness practices can help all parties to self-regulate and feel supported before, during and after a crisis. Whether the psychological support is available internally or is provided by external professionals, it needs to be readily available, particularly for all high-stress positions. This in turn can help to foster a sense of psychological safety, prevent burnout and support retention efforts.
Mindfulness Across Diversity
As we know, many factors impact a company’s ability to retain its multi-generation, increasingly diverse workforce. Knowing that in some cultures mindfulness and meditation is integrated and as natural as breathing, HR professionals might find an opportunity to invite certain employees to become champions or pioneers in establishing such practices in the workplace.
Megha Ratna Shakya, originally from Nepal, was given just such an opportunity at the Trans Himalayan Aid Society where he was asked to lead a healing sound and meditation session for the board members of the non-profit.
When asked about his experience of mindfulness in the workplace in Nepal, Shakya points out that although conflicts exist there as elsewhere, the tendency is for people to be poised and remain calm. He explains that as adults, people in the Nepalese culture come to know that it is important to keep one’s ego in check with the goal of maintaining peace of mind, which is highly valued in that culture. Because of that, employees are less reactive and more likely to be responsive instead — guided by a kind of equanimity or what we call being on an “even keel” in the West.
Shakya also points out that the concept of mindfulness in our mainstream culture can be easily misconstrued as just another task on the “to-do” list. He assures that mindfulness is not about making the mind more full than it already is; instead, meditation and what is at the heart of true mindfulness is actually a matter of awareness and attention. Training oneself to place one’s attention and cultivating a deeper awareness of self and others, Shakya notes, also lead to stronger performance and ongoing success at work.
Mindfulness as Retention of Attention
Indeed, awareness is the key to mindfulness, as I heard Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn affirm in September 2019 at the fabulous retreat and educational center, 1440 Multiversity in California. He also emphasized that the integration of mindfulness in the mainstream has become easier partly due to the 800 scientific studies to date that have firmly identified the numerous benefits of meditation, while also detaching it from its spiritual association of past years.
As a best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic in 1979, Kabat-Zinn has been devoted to bringing MBSR programs into the workplace, personal lives and institutions all over the world. He defines mindfulness, with utmost credibility, as: “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.”
Adopting this definition collectively can only encourage employers and employees to suspend the judgement they may hold towards each other. This would further contribute to a sense of individual psychological safety, while everyone also pays greater collective attention; channelling our awareness to give rise to the most poised and focused version of our selves in any given position.
Introduce Mindfulness to Your Workplace
Among the many ways mindfulness can be incorporated in your workplace, consider experimenting with a quarterly or by-annual campaign. Activities for this could include:
- Sharing by text, email or office board a few weekly pictures of people and things that celebrate awareness, serenity and peace of mind;
- Offering a 15-20-minute lunch time, guided meditation by leaders in the field via audio books starting with Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn or Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield;
- Beginning team meetings with a one minute sharing of something new that has come into an employee’s deeper awareness from either work or personal life;
- Encouraging the practice of random acts of kindness;
- Taking a subscription to the Mindful magazine published 6 times per year and sharing its ideas and inspirations with your team;
- Offering mindfulness and meditation training or retreats
- Encouraging one-minute deep breathing exercises at least twice a day; and
- Beginning a team meeting with a 30-second pause with eyes closed and deep breathing.
Imagine how different this simple way of starting a team meeting could be. As a means of tapping into our hidden resources, the silent 30 seconds can bring a whole new value — both as a means of infusing awareness and recognizing the value of those gathered — leading to greater engagement and more fruitful discussions and futures.
As such mindfulness practices become seamless elements — anchoring qualities of presence, focused productivity, awareness and calm in your workplace culture — employees will appreciate the added value of working for such a progressive and company. After all, any employee who feels truly valued is both empowered and, ultimately, invaluable to any organization.
Professional speaker, author and business coach, Isabelle St-Jean, RSW, PCC, RTC brings to her clients two decades of experience in leading, educating and providing practical solutions to major work/life challenges and transitions.
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