The current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world is posing different kind of challenges for the organizations, as they are struggling to create or sustain their unique differentiators, and improve their effectiveness and efficiencies to meet the ever-rising customer expectations. Continuously improving employee productivity is one of the key dimension that helps any such organization deal with the challenges. As we all know, the source of productivity is the individual employees who get things done every day. The writing on the wall is clear: People perform better when they’re happier.
Employee happiness has undeniably emerged as one of the critical keys to success of an organization. Research over last several decades across various organizations, whether large or small enterprises or entrepreneurial startups, has shown that people are more productive and creative when they have more positive emotions. If employees are engaged, the company grows and keeps thriving against business challenges. On the contrary, without happy or engaged employees, business keeps suffering and thereby fails to grow.
Link between happy customers and employees is often ignored. All businesses want happy customers for achieving their vision and mission. For this, the companies have to look things from a customer perspective and do everything possible to delight them, but who do we think is dealing with these customers?
Treat the employees well makes them happy, and that happiness propels them go above and beyond for your customers. Imagine the difference it will make to the business if customer service is not taken as a department but as an attitude and approach in all departments of the organization. It’s such an easy formula for success. Besides, we know that employees who are engaged aren’t motivated entirely by money. Intrinsic motivation plays a key role to create a happy workforce. So, the happiness and engagement have both bottom line and topline impact on the organizations.
Gallup quantified the link between employee feelings and corporate outcomes, reporting that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion in the U.S. annually. Also, according to Gallup, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. A separate Gallup study by researcher James Harter and his colleagues found that business unit sales and profits at one point in time are predicted by employees’ feelings about the organization at earlier points in time.
Similarly, according to joint research from the Wall Street Journal and iOpener Institute, happier employees help their colleagues 33% more often than unhappy ones. Happy employees also achieve their goals 31% more often, and are 36% more motivated in their work.
The realization that is dawning on the organizations is that employee happiness impacts moods, attitude, behavior, productivity, customer service, absenteeism, safety, camaraderie, team work, profitability and results, etc., virtually covering or impacting almost any business metric that an organization cares about. Good enough reason that is should not be ignored any longer!
Here are 7 things to consider as you try to build a happier workforce in your organization:
- Make their work exciting and meaningful; Establish connection between their work and the big picture or purpose of the organization. Whether it’s a regular or special assignment, it is possible to add fun, excitement, stretch, challenge, feedback and recognition to the job, which makes the individual’s journey very engaging and meaningful. There is a strong correlation between happiness and meaning; People want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves—whether it is the team, the company or the community at large.
- Create a flexible work environment: Among other things, it includes flexible organizational policies, more work options, open communication channels, besides encouragement of creativity, innovation and ownership to ensure continuous improvement, etc. It also means making space for employees’ lives. Organizations should emphasize work/life integration, not necessarily “balance”.
- Downplay hierarchy (If existing) and treat employees respectfully as human beings rather than just as resources to achieve business objectives: Although paid for the services they render to the organization, however, the unlimited potential within people that yields extra-ordinary results, gets tapped only when employees are psychologically connected to the organization and put in discretionary effort in their work. For this to happen, it is almost imperative that they are treated with respect and provided all support and reinforcement to bring the best out of them
- Develop their potential by providing them diverse challenges continuously: Managers should help each individual employee explore their full potential and invest in their development on the job. One way is to not make them stay in one role for too long. Another could be utilizing the art of questioning and encouraging employees to think independently rather than managers giving solutions on a platter. Third way could be providing promising employees certain additional responsibilities and supporting them initially. Movement and the perception of self-improvement creates satisfaction. Status quo, on the other hand, creates complacency and burnout.
- Identify opportunities so that they can take pride in their skills and knowledge: Even a mundane work requires some special attributes and conscious actions to achieve the requisite quality standards. Similarly, for accomplishing any complex job, each task and operator have to value add, otherwise the final outcome leaves much to be desired. When stakeholders acknowledge the importance of individual person’s skills and contributions, the latter stop being passive followers and start to share their insights and ideas. Instead of being loyal to their pay checks they become loyal to the company. Also, by trying to understand their team members’ other interests, backgrounds, extra-curricular skills, managers get an insight into their non-financial, intrinsic motivations, which when properly leveraged and showcased, acts as a more powerful lever than money.
- Provide opportunities for growth and recognition: People don’t just come to the organizations to earn their paychecks. They are there to make a difference to their lives, build their careers, enhance their learnings, gain new competencies, earn respect and stature among their friends and colleagues, and become better professionals. If they do well, acknowledge and praise their worthwhile contributions lavishly. If they make mistakes, provide them feedback privately and partner with them to improve.
- Provide a credible and inspiring leadership to the people: We all know that”Employees join organization, but leave managers”. Employee tend to associate with their managers and leaders, directly and/or indirectly. While they might identify with the values, philosophy and purpose of the organization, however, if their managers and the leadership team driving the organization is not seen to be “walking the talk”, passionate, honest and listening, till then the organization can never have happy and engaged workforce. According to Paul Marciano, organizational psychologist and author of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of Respect, “Employee engagement depends upon the extent to which individuals respect their organization and its leadership, and feel respected”.
Having identified how to create a happy workforce, we should keep in mind that employee happiness is not a static affair. It changes with the change in organizational context, philosophy, leadership, managerial actions, policies and practices. So, the organizations should always be focused on this aspect and keep exploring opportunities to institutionalize happiness at the workplace.