It’s common sense to say that happy employees are more productive employees. Not surprisingly, research bears this out. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that employee happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
So if you are a good manager, it makes sense to do what you can to make your employees as happy as possible. What is that? Pay them more? Perhaps. Rarely will people complain when you increase their compensation, benefits, and perks but there’s a limit to that, both in your budget and in people’s heads. No amount of money will make someone enjoy their job, be happy to come to work, or go the extra mile if they hate the work they do, don’t care for their co-workers or you, or dislike the company. There is research to show that paying them more won’t help make them happy or improve productivity, but there are things you can do.
According to a study of 40,000 employees conducted by TinyPulse, a human resource research company, there are specific reasons people are happy or unhappy at work – and there are specific actions you can take as a supervisor or manager to move them to the happy side.
Happy Employees TIP #1
Communicate the mission/purpose of the company clearly and make sure each employee knows the importance of his or her contribution to that mission. It is human nature to want to contribute to something greater than yourself and be recognized for doing so. TinyPulse’s study found that only 42% of employees surveyed even knew what the mission of the organization was. When I conduct management seminars, I often ask for a show of hands of those who can summarize their organization’s mission. Sadly, the percentage of hands raised is usually much lower than 42%
Happy Employees TIP #2
Clarify roles & responsibilities. TinyPulse’s study found that 82% of those who defined themselves as happy in their work said their managers had done this. This correlates with a study by Coffman & Buckingham at the Gallup organization that found that the strongest indicator of improved high productivity, high profitability, high customer service ratings and low employee turnover was when surveyed employees answered strongly agree to the question: “I know what is expected of me at work.”
Happy Employees TIP #3
Try to put people together who seem to like each other. The TinyPulse study found that employee happiness is 23.3% more correlated to connections with co-workers than direct supervisors. This is, of course, not always possible, but when and where you can, it’s worth a try. Also, when there is conflict or dislike manifesting itself among employees, reassignment isn’t always a bad thing.
Happy Employees TIP #4
Place a high value on WAPLWO (Works Well And Plays Well With Others). TinyPulse found that team play and collaboration are the top traits employees love about their co-workers and thus, their jobs. This means hiring people who have demonstrated those characteristics in other positions. Southwest Airlines, for example, will often have potential hires work in groups to make presentations to the hiring staff. The hiring staff doesn’t look for brilliant presentations; they look for those applicants who are most supportive of their fellow presenting teammates.
Happy Employees TIP #5
Solicit employees’ suggestions and take them seriously. Coffman & Buckingham’s study found that when employees rated the statement “At work, my opinions seem to count” with “Agree” and “Strongly Agree,” it had a powerful positive effect on productivity, profitability, customer service and low employee turnover. According to TinyPulse, “Businesses that don’t crowd source innovation and suggestions from their employees are missing a huge opportunity. If you’re relying on an open door policy, then you’re not fully leveraging your most prized asset – your people.” So it makes sense to get out there and solicit suggestions, input, and even criticism from your employees.
Happy Employees TIP #6
Set up systems of peer-to-peer recognition. Only 36% of organizations surveyed in TinyPulse’s study do this and yet positive feedback is one of the primary ways we all judge how we’re doing, what bears repeating and what needs to be discontinued. And for those of you who say it’s not good to praise people too much, I have to ask you, are you getting too much praise in your life? Suffering from a praise overdose? I THINK NOT.
Happy Employees TIP #7
7. Be open with information. According to the TinyPulse study, management transparency has an extremely high correlation coefficient of .93 with employee happiness. I think of Kim Jordan, founder of New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, CO who started the practice of holding monthly meetings with all the employees to open the books and let everyone know how the company is doing financially, what plans are in the works and answer questions about anything the employees want to ask about. Ironically, employee turnover at New Belgium runs a paltry 3% per year.