According to an article in Gallup’s 2017 State of the Workplace Initiative, happiness is a positive feeling that is associated with employee engagement. And here’s the kicker – study after study shows that employee engagement is a key to running a more successful and more profitable business. Yet according to Gallup’s world poll, only 15% of workers worldwide (and 30% of American workers) are engaged at work.
Learn how to make your employees happier at work and you’ll soon have higher employee engagement ratings. Here are five tips to tackle today.
Most people like to feel like they’re part of something bigger, whether it’s a family, a club, or a team. Your employees are no different.
Increase their happiness by encouraging positive social interaction among your team. “Help employees develop close, positive relationships with each other, so they’re working every day with good friends,” says Larry Sternberg, co-author of Managing to Make a Difference, a book dedicated to helping managers focus on making a positive difference in employees’ lives.
According to Barbara Sanfilippo, a business consultant, motivational speaker, and expert on workplace motivation, encouraging participation from your staff can help boost happiness. “In our employee satisfaction surveys we’ve seen that some of the unhappiest employees are the ones who are most isolated,” she says. “In many companies, we often see departments functioning as ‘silos’ with employees isolated in their own little world.” Sanfilippo says that this often causes the “us and them syndrome,” leading to poor internal collaboration, poor service, lack of buy-in, and feeling unappreciated.
One of her suggestions is to invite introverted employees or those in less-visible positions to serve on a committee. “Active participation and involvement can do wonders to turn around an unhappy employee,” she says.
While people like to feel like they’re part of a team, they also want to know that their employers think of each of them as individuals rather than just another nameless, faceless workers. To increase employee happiness, Sternberg says to make a point of acknowledging them individually.
“Make sure they know that they matter to you personally, that you genuinely care about them as people, that you seek their greatest good,” he advises.
Sternberg says it’s important to get to know what’s important to each individual – their needs, hopes, aspirations, and goals. “Then, extend yourself to meet those needs and to help them fulfill their aspirations.”
Sternberg says that employees also feel happier when they see that their individual contribution at work has wider implications. So find ways to show each employee how their particular work fits into the larger organization.
“Make sure they understand the ‘why’ — how the company makes a positive difference in the world and how they contribute to the success of the company,” says Sternberg.
Sanfilippo suggests exposing all employees to other areas – and providing opportunities to get involved.
“For example, to enable the employee to feel like they are part of something bigger and not just a cog in the wheel, we recommend having support staff visit front line staff, go on a sales call, sit in on a management staff meeting and broaden their perspective on their role and how they can contribute.”
Related: Driving Employee Engagement in 2017
Increasing employee happiness can be as simple as acknowledging a job well done. In fact, this is an overwhelmingly common desire amongst employees around the world.
According to the Mercer Global Talent Trends Study 2017, 97% of employees say they want to be recognized and rewarded for a wider range of contributions. Yet as easy as it sounds, Sanfilippo says employers are failing at it.
“While this is certainly not a new concept it’s quite alarming how this proven, low-cost method of improving morale is ignored. Over and over we’ve seen lack of recognition as a top complaint on staff satisfaction surveys,” she says.
According to Sanfilippo, recognition, appreciation, and celebration is a personalized and authentic expression that an organization values the individual, the individual’s work, and his or her contribution.
“Whether it is a personal handwritten note from a manager, phone call from an executive or public praise at a meeting, people are hungry to know they matter,” she says.
Recently, Sanfilippo suggested that the CEO of one of her clients personally call up three different employees and express his gratitude for their success in building customer relationships. “These employees were so excited you would have thought they won the lottery,” she says, adding that she’s noticed clients that host frequent and fun celebratory events also have minimal turnover and happier employees.
In today’s work world, another key to employee happiness and engagement is the opportunity for learning and development. A 2016 Pew Research Center Survey found that 87% of respondents believe it’s critical that they get ongoing training and development opportunities all through their working life – there’s a real fear they’ll fall behind in the current (and future) fast-changing workplace. So keep your employees happy by letting them learn and explore a little to determine their possibly hidden talents.
“Make sure each person is in the right fit for their strengths, so they spend most of their work time doing things they’re good at and enjoy,” says Sternberg. “Help them self-actualize through their work.”
Sanfilippo says that to keep an employee happy, employers should find ways to allow them to further develop in their job.
“Many employees are excited when they start a job but once they become proficient at their work, apathy or boredom often sets in,” she says. “The antidote is to ensure there is a way for them to deepen their skills, increase learning and receive consistent coaching from a manager or a mentor.”
As Sanfilippo pointed out, It’s also worth mentioning that for the fastest growing segment of the workforce — millennials — personal development is a driving motivator in choosing (and staying with) an employer.
It may seem far-fetched, but the way companies conduct performance management has a significant impact on employee happiness, satisfaction, and engagement. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 90% of companies that redesigned their performance management processes observed measurable employee engagement improvements. And one of the performance management trends that seems to work well is offering more frequent feedback in the form of coaching sessions.
“I’ve noted our clients with the highest staff satisfaction scores require their managers to have a private monthly coaching session with each staff member,” says Sanfilippo. These conversations are not just about performance, but rather asking, “What can I do to support you and your goals? What would make you happier in your position? What would you like to learn next?” When employees feel you are investing time in their personal and professional development, they feel valued and happier, she says.
Improving employee happiness at work takes time and consistent effort from your organization’s leaders and managers. The investment is worth it. Happier workers are more engaged, and higher employee engagement is associated with more successful businesses.
And as Sternberg says, increasing employee happiness isn’t so hard. “All people want to know that they matter, that they are significant, and that they make a difference.”