How the PERMAH Survey taps into your team vibe

How the PERMAH Survey taps into your team vibe

Posted on 4 November 2021
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In the era of lockdowns, social isolation and videoconferencing, it’s more important than ever for managers like you to take care of your employees. Of course, employee wellbeing has been a central theme in management theory for decades. However, now its impacts on performance and retention have become obvious.

That said, finding the effective employee wellbeing approaches and programs among all the hundreds out there is a steep challenge for busy managers, business owners, HR professionals and team leaders.

This is where Sharon Hudson, leader of Talent Tools, comes in. Helping businesses build psychological safety and social engagement within teams is a core aspect of her professional practice. It is an approach that focuses on improving performance and wellbeing at the “me, we and us” — that is, individual, team and organisational — levels. The key tool she uses to unlock the process is the PERMAH Survey. This article is going to look a little more at how this workplace wellbeing diagnostic tool works. 


How Sharon deploys PERMAH

The overall ethos from which Hudson works revolves around ‘creating positively engaged workplaces’. What is the key sign to managers that a workplace is not ‘positively engaged’? A team with low energy. Many managers will know exactly what she’s talking about, but maybe don’t realise how important it is to address this. Well, the PERMAH Survey is where it all starts. 

Her first step is to use the scientifically tested PERMAH online scales to measure the wellbeing levels in your workplace. Your employees will receive their own individual and actionable reports, while the organisational report aggregates the findings to reveal underlying problems and causes of the languishing team performance — and how to address them.

“As soon as a respondent completes the online questionnaire, they receive their report showing on how they have scored on the six ‘pillars’ of PERMAH — what we like to call the “PERMAH scales”. Based on their results, the report outlines a range of ‘busy-proof’ activities and actions to guide them through building their Personal Wellbeing Plan to feel better and function well,” Hudson says. 

“When I say ‘busy-proof, I mean these activities are so small and take up so little time, that ‘I’m too busy’ simply doesn't stack up as an excuse for not doing them. Even though it’s a micro-habit, something like mindfully walking laps of the kitchen while the kettle boils for your morning coffee really does have a positive effect.”

At Talent Tools, our recent State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia report (August 2021) has found that, given the destabilising effects of the pandemic, the main thing workplace teams want is rest and recovery.

“Now is not the time for giving people resilience training. People are too tired. What your teams need are the skills to engage in the process of coping, recharging and getting back on their feet. However, with so many people working from home right now, their managers are not necessarily noticing the lacklustre energy in their teams. And this fatigue is just mounting up and up.”

Hudson says this touches on a crucial insight into the Talent Tools approach: workplace wellbeing is not about pushing people to maximise the time they spend at maximum performance. Rather, it’s about acknowledging that there is a productivity pendulum where, with the ebbs and flows of life, every employee will swing between struggling and thriving. To perform well, your employees must feel that experiencing these swings is normal and okay: they must feel that they have the ability and skills to move through the ebbs and flows, and the knowledge that their manager and workplace is supportive of them.


What PERMAH is all about

The foundation of PERMAH stems from the work of psychologist Martin Seligman. His original acronym rated the pillars of: Positive Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. Talent Tools adds the H pillar, Health, to underpin and reinforce the other pillars.

Seligman is the grandfather of the positive psychology movement, an approach that focuses on what makes people thrive. The PERMAH Survey is based on that same ethos. It is a methodology that diagnoses and gives form to what can be hazy problems of workplace culture and human perception.

“It is the first thing we deploy when we go into an organisation that wants to enhance or improve its current state of wellbeing - we can measure at the individual, team and organisational level. After we have conducted the survey, we can review how the organisation has tracked for each of the PERMAH pillars.”

Hudson gives the example of working with a group that was discussing work and life boundaries, values and accountability but did not know how to turn their ideas into actions. Their organisational PERMAH Survey indicated their scores in R, for relationships, was low — this is the pillar that houses psychological safety. The blocker wasn’t that “they did not know how to turn their ideas into action,” it was that they didn’t feel safe enough to openly discuss their ideas in the workplace.

There were unspoken fears of getting negative responses or “being found out” for having non-work priorities! Once a survey yields insights like this, it allows us to open up conversations about the underlying issues — such as, in this case, a lack of social engagement leading into low psychological safety in the workplace — and facilitate workshops and activities to build stronger PERMAH pillars.

The individual reports, however, provide employees with 200 follow-up activities and techniques to help employees work on their chosen pillars.

“This might sound complicated, but it's actually simple. You don’t have to do all 200, of course. The reason there are so many is because the solutions are scientifically validated to work for some people some of the time. You can think of these approaches more like tiny habits and activities that you can undertake to make improvements in your wellbeing. When you identify and apply the right ones, the effects can be striking,” Hudson says.


Time to take the PERMAH Survey?

Of course, as the first step in the Talent Tools process, the PERMAH Survey and its framework fit in with more advanced Talent Tools like: StrengthScope, our strengths profile; Values In Action, our resilience profile; Extended DISC; or any one of many others. Each has a different use.

The consultative approach Talent Tools employs will figure out which is the best fit for purpose for your business needs, budget and timeframes. However, it all hinges on what the initial stages reveal: the PERMAH Survey.

Call Sharon Hudson at Talent Tools on 0416 010 701 or call the main desk on 1800 768 569 to take a test drive and find out about how Sharon and the Talent Wellbeing Team do the hard work for you.

We’re here to translate the latest science into practical, easy-to-use tools and everyday actions that can be integrated into existing ways of working and living. These actions and tools minimise the risks of unintentionally harming people’s wellbeing and maximise psychological safety. They work through helping people, teams, workplaces, schools and communities playfully experiment with more effective ways to amplify their ability to thrive and care for their wellbeing — even when they are struggling.