7 Ways to Boost Employee Happiness

Want to boost employee engagement and overall happiness amongst your team? Get 7 straight-forward tips for making them happier.

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employee happiness

If you’re running a business, managing HR, or charged with almost any dimension of people operations, it’s more than likely you’ve encountered the term ’employee happiness’ at some point in your daily life. A quick Google search for the term yields over 21 million results – articles, slide decks, and other posts – so one thing is clear: People are passionate about the topic.

So, why do we care so much about ’employee happiness’?

Probably because it’s so illusive. ‘Happiness’ means many different things to different people, so it’s difficult for most employers to get it 100 percent right all of the time. As much as we’d like to believe it isn’t true, there simply isn’t one single formula for ’employee happiness’ in every organization.

While HR experts and business leaders continue to offer up advice for delivering happiness in the workplace, we’ve scoured the research and information on the topic and provided you with 7 straight-forward tips for making your employees happier.

1. Stop promoting individual contributors to ‘manager’ 

Numbers don’t lie: According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report, only 10 percent of working people possess the talent to be a great manager. Despite this, many high-performing employees continue to be promoted to ‘manager’. That’s because a ‘manager’ role often requires an entirely different set of skills and experiences than what an employee is used to drawing on as an individual contributor. When it comes to managing people, relationships, and expectations, it can be challenging for a non-manager to execute effectively in his new role. Not surprisingly, about 80 percent of the time, this kind of promotion backfires, putting employee happiness at risk and leaving both the newly minted manager and his team dissatisfied with the arrangement.  

Pro-tip: Provide alternate paths to success and visibility within your organization so that individual contributors don’t find themselves pushed into the management track just so they can get a raise. For those with demonstrated interest in the management track, screen for skills and train them to do their best.

2. Onboard more effectively

If your business is growing quickly and you’ve little time to spare, it can be tempting to do away with a formal onboarding program for new hires. But be warned: Skipping onboarding has negative consequences for both employee happiness and your business. Research shows that organizations with structured processes for onboarding increase new hire productivity by 70 percent and retention by 82%. That’s a strong indication that onboarding is a foundation for engagement and, subsequently, may influence employee happiness.

3. Run an employee happiness survey each quarter

When it comes to making sure employees are happy, HubSpot’s VP of Culture and Experience, Katie Burke, recommends going the extra mile–and then some. Each quarter, she and her team launch and review a company-wide employee happiness survey that yields results from more than 700 respondents. Parsing through the results can be challenging, but Katie sees the employee happiness survey as a crucial mechanism for producing fulfilled and engaged employees.

Pro-tip: Regularly measuring employee satisfaction is critical to the health of your business. If you don’t have time for quarterly surveys, check out TinyPulse, which makes it easy for companies of find out how employees are feeling about their workplace.

4. Build a strong (and unique) company culture

When you’ve got a thriving company culture, you’ll attract outstanding candidates and have a better shot at keeping the talent you already have. This is what makes a happy and healthy workplace. It’s also what gives people a reason to work harder when traditional perks might not be as relevant or meaningful. In this way, culture acts as a binding layer in addition to things like great benefits and pay.

Pro-tip: Take culture seriously. “We have a culture committee,” says Dave Wardell, Chubbies’ VP of Finance and Operations. “And it’s not just about having a happy hour every week. It’s more about how we can get people from different teams to communicate, become friends, and establish relationships.” Read more about Chubbies’ great company culture.

5. Don’t be shortsighted

There’s nothing wrong with being driven. But, according to Chris Savage, CEO and co-founder of Wistia, it’s less about pursuing every potential growth hack and instead, focusing on what really matters in the long-term. He says some leaders push too hard all the time, and in turn, “[t]hey undermine their team’s ability to do great work by focusing on the short term, chasing trends, and imitating competitors,” he explains in an excellent blog post.

Pro-tip: Realize you can’t chase every trend and pursue every growth hack. Set goals for yourself and for your employees and the next time the next big trend comes along, ask yourself if it’s worth pursuing at the expense of your broader goals for employee happiness.

6. Get people in the right roles

Once you have the right people in your organization, you can do amazing things. But only if your people are in the right roles. According to Cameron Herold, author and culture expert, if the A-player you hired simply isn’t performing, it’s an indication you’ve got them in the wrong role. Boost your employee’s performance–and his or her happiness–by working with them to find a better fit elsewhere in your organization.

Pro-tip: If you can’t keep an A-player in your organization, help them find a new role elsewhere, advises Herold. Although the situation may not be ideal, you’ll never be able to coach someone into doing a job they’re not passionate about.

7. Figure out the “why”

Stop what you’re doing and answer this one question: Why do you go to work each morning?

If you responded with something along the lines of, “because I need to make a living,” you’re half-way there. The other half of the answer to that question is related to your organization, and how well it articulates its reason for existence. When employees know there’s a broader goal than just bringing home a paycheck, they’re usually a lot happier to go into work. That’s because it’s crucial to give your people something bigger to believe in.

Pro-tip: ake 5 minutes to think about why your company exists. These aren’t marketing value propositions–they’re the unvarnished truth about what drives you to get out of bed each morning and do what you do. If you’re not inspired by what you wrote down, chances are your employees aren’t either. Boost happiness by making the changes that create the workplace you’d be excited to visit each morning.

This post was originally published on February 4, 2016, but has since been updated. 

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