The Pursuit Of Happiness: Demystifying The Phenomenon That Is Employee Happiness

The Pursuit Of Happiness: Demystifying The Phenomenon That Is Employee Happiness

Happiness has a domino-like effect in the workplace – happy employees lead to a more productive environment, and eventually happy stakeholders. As good as it sounds, employee happiness can be pretty tough to achieve.

In this digital age, it’s hard to satisfy people as people’s needs to keep changing with the changing trends in the market. The leadership believes that employees will be satisfied once they have solved their most pressing problems. But the bitter truth is that once you resolve one problem, there’s another waiting for you. And, to top it off there’s never a point where expectations stop growing altogether.

Rising expectations are an inevitable part of life. An individual is never content with what they have, they will always find something that needs improvement or an issue that bothers them.

Referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once your lower-order needs are satiated, you move on to higher-order needs. That’s why employees who may seem to have all their basic needs satisfied, are still unhappy. They simply move on to higher-order problems that tend to be more difficult to fulfill.

Why Your Employees May Not Be Entirely Happy at Work?

Let’s face it! Employees are never 100% satisfied and there’s always room to provide more for their wellbeing. Even in a healthy organisation, employee needs can keep changing and that is why it’s important for your company to evolve in order to meet these ever-changing needs.

Here are some reasons why your employees might not be happy at work:

1. Their Work Lacks Meaning

As more and more tasks are automated, there’s no scope for inspiration and creativity for employees to break free. This is especially true for the technology sector. Doing the same thing over and over again without exercising their creative abilities can bring even the happiest worker down.

2. Tense or Non-existent Co-Worker Relationships

Humans are social beings and don’t like to work alone. If you are not a lone wolf, you definitely want to work with a team where you share opinions, have fun, and talk to people while you are at it. A work environment where co-worker relationships are tense is not a healthy workplace and only creates unhappy employees.

3. They Want Flexibility

A proper work-life balance is essential to every employee. To that end, they need to have the flexibility to manage their life on their own terms, balancing their work along with family, hobbies or social life.

4. They Don’t Feel Heard

Employees are seldom given an opportunity to speak out their mind. At times even executive HR leaders don’t feel like they have a seat at the executive table. If employees feel that they don’t have a voice and their opinions are not valued at a high level, it’s certain to leave them discontented.

At the same time not only is it important to solicit employee input but also to act on the input to make the workplace better.

5. They Don’t Feel Valued

High wages are not the only thing that makes an employee feel valued at work. Being rightfully rewarded for work is a must, but there’s a tipping point when money is not everything. What’s more important is recognition and having someone appreciate your work.

Keeping Your Employees Happy Isn’t Always About Higher Pay

Compensation is not the most important metric when it comes to employee happiness. Even though fair pay plays a role, it is the intrinsic motivators outside of compensation that matter to the employee the most.

An experiment was conducted in an Israeli semiconductor factory. Workers were notified on their productivity targets and then asked to choose between a voucher for free pizza, a cash bonus of $30, or a compliment from the boss in exchange for achieving their goals. Which group turned out to be most productive? The one that received a compliment as a reward!

Yet, a lot of managers feel weird about giving compliments, which eventually leads to a whole lot of problems. So, the next time someone performs well, acknowledge their efforts in public. Remember to Praise in Public, Scold in Private!

Another interesting study was undertaken to prove the fact that employees prefer non-monetary gifts than cash bonuses. A study by Swiss and German researchers revealed just that. “The researchers found that gifts were far more motivating to short-term employees than unexpected cash bonuses, effectively paying by themselves with productivity.

Use gifts to show your appreciation. It doesn’t have to be expensive. And, if your team is remote you can offer intangible gifts like vouchers, vacations, and cruises.

Why Employee Happiness Matters?

With all being said about why employees may not be totally happy at the workplace, it is essential to understand that happy employees impact the survival and performance of any organisation. Every successful organisation has happy employees behind the scenes. This is because happier employees work harder, work better in teams and are generally more productive.

On the other hand, when employees are unhappy, they put in minimal effort to avoid harmful consequences at best and at worst could even completely sabotage the entire business. Ever heard of the over 200-year-old British bank named Barings that collapsed, all because of one unhappy employee Nick Leeson? They even made a movie about it called  Rogue Trader.

Here’s why happy employees are productive:

1. Happy Employees are Engaged Employees

When employees are made to feel happy, they are more invested in the organisational goals and naturally work towards it. They pay more attention to customer needs and are more alert to the company’s process and systems. When you care for your employees, they reciprocate and care for your organisation too!

2. Happy Employees are Loyal

According to a Gallup Poll, happy employees are resilient and more likely to stay with their employers for the long term. Lower turnover means cost savings for your business as it will not slow down productivity.

Furthermore, happy employees are willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them and do more work willingly.

3. Happiness Breeds Manifold

Happiness produces an exponential effect – when directed it can grow over the entire company. More happy employees mean more happy bosses and the cycle keeps continuing. Happiness increases productivity because happy employees support each other and invoke a positive attitude.

3. Happy Employees are Open to Risks

Happy employees are open to taking calculated risks, while unhappy employees like to play it safe. Innovation is key to success and if no employee thinks outside the box, businesses will not survive. Even if they make mistakes by taking risks, it can be a powerful learning tool for others and create a supportive environment in the workplace that encourages all.

4. Happy Employees are Healthy

Work-related stress and mental disorders are commonplace these days. Workers who are prone to depression and boredom take more leave days per month. The health of distressed employees breeds negativity in your organisation. Whereas happy employees tend to be healthier and in turn keep the organization in good health.

How to Motivate Employees to Be Happy and Productive

Unhappy employees are eventually bound to leave their companies. When a valuable employee leaves, the organisation incurs a tremendous cost since you now have to spend resources on finding and training a replacement. So, how can you ensure that you take the effort to keep your employees happy? Here are some ways:

1. Constant Challenge

Have you ever considered the reason an employee may be unhappy is simply that they are bored with what they are currently doing? Smart employees need constant intellectual stimulation rather than assigning them simple tasks that they can breeze right through.

According to research from the University of Buffalo School of Management, employees are turned off by goals they consider unrealistic but motivated by small wins and challenging, incremental goals.

Ensure to set realistic goals that will be able to stretch your employee’s abilities at the same time. That way, you’ll prevent your employees from doodling, and keep them constantly engaged.

2. Right Work Environment

Why do Google and Facebook spend millions of dollars on scaling their work environment? A shabby workplace can be a real demotivator. Since your employees spend most of their time in the workplace, it is essential to provide them with an optimal work environment.

It has also been shown that employees are happier when they have some degree of control over the workplace environment. For instance, employees at Facebook can adjust their desks the way they want to, and teams are free to use whatever workspace layout they see fit based on their requirements.

It definitely pays to give your employees more autonomy when it comes to their work environment. Apart from basic needs, you can also ensure their higher-order needs are met by going a step beyond.

3. Company Retreats

Company retreats and casual team outings are a great way to help employees maintain cordial relations with their co-workers and also relax and do fun activities while they are at it. Several companies today organize such retreats to break the monotony of routine work and help people bond together.

It promotes a positive social work environment and organizational culture where employees are felt appreciated and taken care of.

4. Promotions

According to a study from people and organizational advisory firm Korn Ferry, 63 percent of employees would prefer to get a promotion without a raise than a raise without a change in designation.

Indeed, your employees should feel that they are going in the right direction in their careers. More than the monetary perks, a role up the ladder will assure them that you acknowledge their performance. This will make your employees more confident about their efforts being observed and rewarded and encourage them to push the envelope.

Promoting the right employees on a regular basis based on their performance is very vital to ensure that you have made an effort to keep your employees happy and value their career advancement.

Achieving Employee Happiness is Not Easy As it Seems

If you head to Quora and look up why most people are unhappy with their jobs, you can come up with a million reasons for the same. Well, the very nature of happiness is transient and it can be quite difficult to achieve a constant state of happiness.

Leadership and HR professionals should recognize and understand that it is quite difficult to please employees and make them completely happy. With changing expectations and new problems, the definition of employee happiness changes too.

With that being said, it doesn’t mean you should not take any measures to make your employees happy. You should still value employee happiness and make an effort to keep your workforce happy. At the same time, it’s important to understand that you cannot coerce the state of happiness.

Promoting positivity at work and demanding it are two different things. As employers, your organisation can breed positivity in the workplace with a culture that promotes happiness. Rather than simply decreeing that no one is allowed to have an argument at work, simply create the kind of environment that leads employees to be happy organically.

A productive and positive work environment has emerged as the new contract between employer and employee. The key to a productive workplace is fostering happy employees. Do all you can to keep your employees happy, and they will make sure that your organization is also in good shape.


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