Most of us know the saying, attributed to either medieval monk and poet John Lydgate or early US president Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot keep all of the people happy all of the time.” But perhaps we should try a little harder, particularly in light of recent research conducted by the University of Warwick.
A number of experiments were carried out to test the idea that happy employees work harder than unhappy employees. They showed that being happy made people around 12 per cent more productive. Happier workers used their time more effectively, increasing the pace at which they could work without sacrificing quality.
These findings have implications for people management strategies. Organisations are constantly seeking ways to increase productivity and profitability: analysts are hired, management information is scrutinised and projections are formulated.
But firms should target more energy into ensuring staff are happy in their work, and feel valued and supported. They should strive to make the workplace an emotionally healthy environment that provides a breeding ground for productivity.
Take Google, for example: having invested more in employee support, it has seen employee satisfaction rise by 37 per cent.
We measure staff engagement and satisfaction regularly through anonymous surveys and emotions boards, as well as through more detailed and personal discussions via our coaching programme.
There is a lot of truth in another old saying: “Happy people sell.” If your team are enjoying the ride, coming to work feeling motivated and content, they are likely to go home every day having achieved good things.
So how do we make and keep people happy so that, ultimately, we can retain them? A first thought may be to offer them a financial incentive. But money does not buy happiness. Indeed, research by PwC shows pay is not necessarily the top priority for employees, particularly millennials.
In short, showing an employee how much the company respects and values them on a personal level is much more gratifying than bonuses, company perks and paid days off. Recognition and rewards are crucial to the motivation and happiness of a team. In addition to development and career progression, these are the key drivers for many individuals.
Transparency is another factor in enhancing staff happiness; most people want to know the truth about the state of the company they work for. The cost of improving transparency is almost zero but an ongoing dialogue between management and staff is required. Clear and frequent communication on company developments and direction makes all the difference.
In addition to providing staff with ‘output’, the opportunity for team members to give ‘input’ provides a positive, happy work culture. Organisations should always consider surveying their workforce to gauge satisfaction levels; insight from employees can point bosses in the right direction for shaping a better work environment. Giving team members the opportunity to contribute ideas and opinions about the wider business is also hugely empowering and motivational for them.
Finally, making employees’ work-life balance a priority is also of key importance in keeping them happy. Recognising that the team have lives beyond the walls of the organisation goes a long way. Offering flexible working, acknowledging and valuing out-of-work interests and situations, and setting good examples with regards to working hours are all strategies for ensuring a decent work-life balance among employees.
I conclude with the wise words of the late but legendary Steve Jobs of Apple, who stated: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”