We all know that we seem to have more energy, are less stressed, more creative, more helpful to others and achieve more when we are happy. Yet when it comes to workplaces, the same ‘formula’ often doesn’t appear to apply. While keeping customers and clients happy has been a focus of business success for years, ensuring employee happiness has not always been such a priority.
But if we are more energised, more creative and get more stuff done when we are happy and companies want to be more productive and profitable, it follows that having happy and engaged employees is something every employer should strive for.
The growing body of research around employee engagement and the link to profitability is irrefutable – happy employees mean improved productivity and increased profits. Whether we look at entrepreneurial startups or large, established enterprises, the same holds true: People are more productive and creative when they have more positive emotions.
Positive and happy people are not only more likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem that same day, but also do so the next day.
Creating a workplace filled with happy people isn’t as difficult as you might think. And it isn’t about salary increases.
In fact, research confirms that salary is never the primary reason people leave jobs – they leave jobs first and foremost because they feel under-valued or unappreciated. They feel their contribution is not valued.
This is not to say that an appropriate salary is not an important component of recognition – it is. It’s just not the most important component.
Here are 10 things you can do immediately to change the happiness level in your employees and improve your bottom line.
1. Building trust
On Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, trust is at the foundation. At the peak of the pyramid, are the qualities associated with engagement: self-actualization, creativity and problem-solving.
Bridging the gap between these levels is the key to high performing and happy employees.
When employees feel they are trusted to perform their job functions they have the freedom and confidence to engage creatively and participate in solving problems, which in turn creates a feeling of value, maximising their contribution.
Just make sure you keep any promises you make to them. Broken promises will remove any feelings of trust they may have!
2. Providing consistent feedback
Most people want to know that they are “getting it right”, or at the very least, know how they can improve to be the best they can be.
Providing consistent feedback opens up communication between employees and managers and the benefits flow both ways – employees gain a better understanding of where they’re succeeding and what requires more attention; managers glean insight into office dynamics and daily work flow.
But feedback is effective only when it is delivered objectively and fairly and should be treated as a tool of instruction, not chastisement or punishment.
3. Respecting your employees
New research suggests that overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by those around you, not to the status that comes from how much money you have stashed in your bank account.
A crucial part of fostering employee engagement is acknowledging and utilizing the unique skills and qualities a person brings to the table.
Thomas Britt, an organizational psychologist at Clemson University, suggests that if people aren’t given the chance to use their talents, their level of engagement is reduced and their job commitment diminished. Respect also goes beyond the projects and tasks assigned at work.
Understanding and supporting an employee’s commitments outside of work, such as caring responsibilities or community service activities increases loyalty and job commitment, both of which translate into profit for you!
4. Providing career growth opportunities
Employees who are fully engaged and demonstrate the ‘nirvana’ that is job satisfaction and initiative won’t want to be put in a corner to beaver away on the same tasks day after day. If you really want someone to be a productive, contributing member of your team next year and the year after that, then offering career growth opportunities is a sure-fire way of making that happen.
A few ideas are compensating advanced education, funding attendance at conferences and participation in internal mentorship programs.
Career development enhances employees’ skill sets, which will further enrich your business and it also communicates to employees that they are important members of the team who are expected to learn new and better ways to meet goals and objections.
5. Sharing the big picture
If you want someone to be part of the dream you need to first share the dream with them.
People engage more readily in a task or project if they know both the purpose of the task and the contribution their effort will make to a bigger picture. Spend time ensuring your employees understand the business goals and vision and you will be rewarded with increased levels of engagement. This isn’t just about organizational flow charts, canned mission statements and revenue charts.
People want to understand how the goals that they accomplish contribute to the overall success of the company.
6. Setting clear goals
Psychologists agree that people work their best and hardest when endeavouring to meet a specific, challenging goal.
Even if someone’s job entails punching out widgets on an assembly line, he or she should know how many widgets to make in a day and the measure of quality the company expects.
Definable goals give employees a roadmap to both chart their progress and determine the resources needed to accomplish the goals down the line.
More importantly, setting goals infuses daily work with a sense of purpose.
Happier workers consider their jobs meaningful, which adds to their feelings of value, which as we have already learned, improves your bottom line.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta found that people who focused on the meaningfulness of their jobs exhibited a 60 percent drop in absenteeism and a 75 percent reduction in turnover – performance metrics any company would be pleased to have!
7. Recognising success
Happy and engaged employees are self-motivated to go above and beyond the call of duty. They take ownership of their tasks and feel pride in completing them to the best of their abilities. But no one will keep this up without some positive feedback. Recognise jobs well done and give credit where it is due – a positive feedback loop will ensure your happy, high-performing employee stays that way.
While many companies offer bonuses and incentives as part of a salary package performance rewards don’t need to be about money for them to be effective. The most effective motivator of all is public recognition – the recipient enjoys elevated social status, the joy of praise and, possibly, increased responsibility and promotional opportunities.
There are many ways to create opportunities to publicly recognise high performance in your organisation – incorporate it into every company-wide event you have, have an internal newsletter, introduce an employee of the month award, or just do a “shout-out” in the middle of the office!
8. Making sure you have face time
(And I’m not talking about the app on your iPhone!)
Neuroscience research examining how our brains respond to office work has identified many innate human desires we wish to fulfil through work and a ‘biggie’ is the need to bond. In fact, studies have shown that addressing this desire to bond with others in the same situation is the most effective way to boost employees’ dedication to the company.
However, the advent of laptops and mobile devices has seen employees become more isolated and emails, conference calls and text messages have increasingly replaced face-to-face communication.
Without regular person-to-person interaction, employees can feel removed both from the corporate identity and the bigger picture and sometimes even lose sight of their purpose. If you want your employees to be fully engaged, you need to lead the way – we used to call it management by walking around!
9. Practising open communication
We have all had a Manager for whom we would have walked over burning coals … outside an Anthony Robbins seminar! The difference between a mediocre manager and an effective one often boils down to communication.
Specifically, a lack of transparency from the top down is often the root of the problem, but the responsibility for effective communication doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the chief executives.
Business research repeatedly highlights the critical role middle managers play in building an open and honest rapport with employees. And this isn’t just wandering around sprouting the company line – employees can spot a lack of genuineness a mile off!
Don’t be afraid to field questions, provide information and be as direct and straightforward as possible about what can be addressed. In short, good communication gets to the core of employee engagement.
10. Offering flexible work options
The nine-to-five office culture of the 20th century is dead and gone and there is an increasing understanding in the public arena of the importance of maintaining some sort of work-life balance. Of course we still expect people to put in their 40 hours and meet project deadlines, but they don’t need to be strapped to a chair at a desk to do it.
Mobile devices and WiFi networks allow employees to get the job done virtually anywhere and empowering people to get the job done even when they are not visible in the office is another way of showing respect and building trust, both high value contributors to employee happiness and improved productivity.
Fortune 100 companies that have moved to a flexible work model that allows participating employees to set their own schedules as long as their work is consistently finished on time, report productivity increases of anywhere between 30% and a staggering 60%!
Flexible work options include everything from telecommuting to compressed workweeks and taking extended leave time to attend to family or community commitments.
Does your organisation do any of these? All 10 – great! If you don’t do all of them, though, you’re missing out on profit and productivity.