photo by Richard Foster
Who doesn’t want to be happy at work, right? We spend more time at our occupation than we do with our families and friends. Studies continue to show that happiness in the workplace is not only a cost-saver, but a worker’s unhappiness at work can be quite costly to an employer. If we’re trying to build businesses to last, to be successful, and to fulfill our needs, this is an issue that we need to get a handle on now – especially, as Millennials continue to enter (and take over) the workforce and demand jobs that are fulfilling, satisfying, meaningful, and connected.
Studies have shown that happy employees have:
In fact, in 2016, the U.S. retail industry lost approximately $9 BILLION DOLLARS to voluntary entry-level turnover! Say that again out loud -- $9 BILLION DOLLARS lost last year!
You might not be able to buy happiness, but not having it sure can cost you!
So, in the interest of helping both workers and business owners tackle this critical issue of worker engagement, here are five tips on how to improve your workplace.
1. Focus on Purpose
In my last couple of posts, I have written about the importance of purpose in the workplace. Purpose will often dictate a worker’s satisfaction with his or her job, the company, and even with themselves. The need to create a purpose-driven company with a clear mission, an inspiring vision, and authentic values that everyone within the company can incorporate into their work is absolutely critical. These elements will help you identify and recruit people who will fit in and commit to the “cause.” A purposeful environment will help to inspire workers as they go through the ups and downs of their lives. Purpose will allow you to place the right folks in the right positions. Remember: the “sweet spot” of purpose lies at the intersection of personal purpose, company purpose, and role (in the company) purpose.
Dan Pontefract, The Purpose Effect
2. Be Creative with Compensation
People want to be paid a “fair” wage. While nobody wants to go to work thinking that they aren’t being paid enough, it has been shown that people will work for less salary if they are working in a company with a robust Corporate Social Responsibility program. But what’s making companies stand out these days is not so much paying the “market rate” (or above market rate) salaries and providing “traditional” benefits (healthcare, dental, vision, retirement); it’s the non-traditional compensation and amenities that some companies are offering that provide workers with incentive, work satisfaction, and in turn, happiness. Some of these creative incentives could include:
3. Embrace Feedback Loops
Just as workers don’t want to be underpaid for their efforts, traditional employee evaluations are not an enjoyable experience by anyone. While workers appreciate feedback so that they know what they are doing right and where they could improve, a system that is set up for a manager to evaluate an employee alone, is usually not a satisfying experience. The manager isn’t comfortable, the employee dreads the annual event, and often times the process is one that is either mandatory and perfunctory, forgotten until the next year, or it is one that is setting up an employment separation (either by choice or not). Instead, I suggest utilizing a much more satisfying and helpful, 360 degree feedback loop process where the worker is being evaluated by more than just his/her manager (others in management, co-workers, customers, direct reports) and the employee is able to do the same – all at the same time. Adults getting together and, like adults, having positive, interactive conversations where at the end of the session, agreements can be made to improve certain processes/behaviors, and the entire team can move on in a more successful manner. In fact, I would suggest that this be done more frequently than once a year. If workers can connect with peers on a human level and be motivated by the folks around them to maximize their performance efforts, they will be more successful, and they (and everyone with whom they connect) will be happier.
4. Examine Hierarchy
Top down organizations have their place in our society. Take the military or government, for example. But some innovators, recognizing that rigid structures aren’t necessarily the most satisfying for workers, are reinventing organizations into less hierarchical, flatter, and self-managed workplaces. And they are seeing remarkable results. By doing so, these types of companies are empowering workers to make their own decisions based on the company’s values and culture, they are using stakeholder models for decision-making, discipline, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. They are freeing up executives to focus on “big picture” items to drive an organization forward, rather than focus on the mundane. These types of organizations treat workers as “whole individuals” in which the work experience is an extension of self as opposed to leaving one’s true self at the door, coming into work to do a job, and then leaving, unsatisfied with the work experience.
5. Utilize Volunteer Opportunities & Gratitude
One final way to keep workers happy and engaged is to encourage them to utilize the business for volunteer opportunities and share gratitude. A company looks externally with volunteer activities in the community; expressing and encouraging expressions of gratitude looks internally at feeding the worker’s soul. A recent study on employee engagement found employees say that opportunities to support causes or issues they care about (64%) are as important as wellness programs. Building in a company-wide, day of service is one way companies engage workers, but other companies allow for their workers to choose their volunteer activities – skills-based and otherwise. The best combination is to allow for both: meet workers where they are as that will allow for the greatest happiness result! Matching volunteer time (dollars for doers) with a donation to the nonprofit supercharges the impact and the happiness quotient. Lastly, creating a culture of gratitude has been shown to build “social capital,” engages workers, and enhances worker happiness. Who doesn’t want the personal touch of regular expressions of gratitude from one’s co-workers? As I teach my 6-year old, expressing gratitude “fills buckets” – both for the people you express it to, as well as for oneself.