Four strategies that help organizations harness happiness in their workforce.
By Debra Hreczuck
Some leaders may think that caring about employee happiness somehow means sacrificing performance. Actually, the opposite is true. In order for organizations to succeed and for employees to believe in the business strategy enough to work toward improving the bottom line, leaders need to make sure they are happy, researchers say. A miserable workforce is an unmotivated workforce, and that is a recipe for stagnation or outright resistance. The truth is employee happiness is tied to performance in many areas, including recruitment, retention, collaboration, and agility. Happiness is the web of energy in an organization that keeps employees focused and efficient.
Organizations can harness happiness in their own workplaces to the benefit of both their culture and their strategic goals. Here are four best practices that will help drive happier—and more productive—employees.
1. Embrace the unique. Create a workplace where employees feel comfortable being themselves. Employees are happier when they are allowed to express their individuality—a fact that is becoming more clear with the increasing importance of diversity and inclusion. By allowing people to express their individuality and freely share their thoughts, organizations foster a supportive and inclusive environment. To encourage this, HR leaders can create community groups within the organization to support and elevate diversity or provide the opportunity to volunteer in a meaningful way. Above all, firms that embrace the unique listen to and address their employees’ concerns so they can feel free to be themselves. Allowing them that freedom is one of the most important ways an organization can show its employees that they truly belong.
2. Adopt a mission your employees can believe in. Most organizations have values and mission statements and a lot of them can look the same—and have the same flaws. Mission statements that are too high-level or too broad in their language often fail. If employees have trouble explaining the company values and goals to peers, then the mission statement is in trouble. In fact, it will likely confuse, mislead, and frustrate employees. Companies need to find a middle ground to give the mission statement the loftiness it deserves while making it understandable and compelling to both the workforce and people still learning more about the organization.
A great way to create a mission statement that resonates with the workforce is to conduct focus groups of employees to understand what guides employees day-to-day. CultureIQ has one statement: “Respect data but make human decisions.” This aligns to the company’s work—survey analytics and strategic consulting—so it’s something the workforce values and connects to. It’s no longer enough to say “respect each other” or “value the customer”; mission statements should fit the work as well as the people.
3. Let employees work on cool projects. Employees appreciate when managers provide them the freedom to create individual and marketplace success for clients. This feeds their creativity and shows them a new level of trust. Managers need to turn to employees for unique project ideas. Google goes so far as to let employees craft their own jobs and encourages them to take risks, a formula designed to incubate new ideas. In an innovation-focused culture with a flat hierarchy, when an employee comes up with a great idea, they should be able to walk into the CEO’s office and share it. Leaders have to make sure people are comfortable doing that. That means giving people the kind of autonomy firms like Google allow so they feel empowered to raise their voices.
4. Listen and take action on employee feedback. Always tune in to what employees are thinking throughout their employment lifecycle and make sure to take actions based on their feedback. It will actually do more damage if a company collects feedback and does nothing with it. Employers should gather feedback frequently enough to keep pace with the changes in the workforce. Behind every troubled, unsuccessful organization, there’s usually a failed listening policy—one where people say, “I wasn’t asked,” “I didn’t think I could speak up,” or “I spoke up and no one heard me.” The trouble begins when organizations don’t listen enough or have blind spots where they refuse to accept feedback.
Put in perspective: Life is short and employees spend so much of their time at work. By prioritizing employee happiness and a solid workplace culture, chances are leaders will be fulfilled in their jobs as well.
Debra Hreczuck is head of people for CultureIQ, a firm that was recently honored by Comparably as one of the top five happiest small/mid-size workplaces in the U.S.