Happy employees are better employees. They are twice as productive, six times more energized, and take ten times less sick leave than those who are unhappy, according to a study by researchers at the iOpener Institute for People and Performance.
What’s more, happy people are five times more likely to stay in their jobs–no small thing when you consider the costs of hiring and training new people.
But how do you know if they’re happy? Would they tell you if they weren’t? And what can you as a manager do to improve employee happiness?
You may think first about compensation and benefits. Bonuses, pay increases, flexible hours and generous benefits play a key role in keeping employees motivated, of course. But managers are increasingly coming to the realization that building a truly happy, high-performing team or workforce may require them to dig deeper.
Recent research suggests that such intangibles as finding value and meaning in the workplace, a sense of empathy among co-workers, opportunities for success and personal growth, and feelings of gratitude all play an important part in happiness on the job. This may sound daunting, but as a manager, you can take action to address these intangibles–and the outcome will not only be a more productive team, but a more positive work environment as well.
Create a Sense of Purpose. A University of Alberta study found that employees who participated in a six-week program aimed at engaging them in finding a sense of purpose exhibited 60 percent less absenteeism and 75 percent less turnover than a control group with no intervention.
But how do you create a sense of purpose?
It is easy for employees of nonprofits and human service agencies to understand the role their organizations play in making the world better. But even in the for-profit sector, that sense of purpose may be closer than you think.
Most products and services exist to improve customers’ lives in some way. If the corporate mission statement reflects this goal–and not only the profit motive–it can serve as a tool for managers to help their employees see their work in a new light. If you are not in a position to affect the company’s overall mission, try creating a department or team mission statement–one that expresses how what you do makes the world a better place.
Clarify employees’ impact. Learning firsthand how their work improves lives is a great way to help employees find purpose. A Wharton School of Business study of workers in a call center raising money for scholarships–often dispiriting work because of the small percentage of successful calls–doubled the number of calls they made and tripled the amount of money they raised after hearing a student speak to them personally about how he had been affected by the scholarship he received.
Foster fulfilling work relationships. Chances to socialize and build bonds in informal settings can help employees find meaning in on-the-job relationships, so can opportunities to enrich work and find meaning through helping co-workers. A mentorship program that pairs experienced employees with those new to the company or team offers the mentor a sense of purpose and the person mentored a sense of connection and value.
Offer recognition. It’s no surprise that employees who have been recognized and rewarded for superlative performance are happier and more motivated. But research also shows that opportunities to recognize others and express gratitude can also promote well-being in those who are giving recognition. It also motivates people with the desire to earn similar recognition. Yet a recent study by CornerstoneOnDemand revealed that two-thirds of employees do not receive adequate feedback or recognition. Create “recognition moments”–and get everybody involved.
Find out what employees want. At Zappos, workers take a short “Happiness” survey every 6-8 weeks, with just a few questions. Team managers are responsible for addressing issues that surface in the surveys. Sometimes, though, the best approach is face to face. Sit down with your employees and ask some straightforward questions. Are you happy at work? What makes you unhappy? When are you most motivated? What gets in the way? What would make you feel excited about coming to work each day?
They just might be able to tell you what they need.