Boosting employee happiness is one of the most effective ways for an employer to maximise productivity, reduce absenteeism, attract talent and create a compelling employee brand for their business.
Traditionally, organisations have sought to improve output among their workforce by focusing on material rewards such as pay rises, bonuses or other employee benefits to incentivise better productivity.
Thanks to recent research, we now know that creating a happy and culturally rewarding environment has an even greater positive effect on a company’s overall prosperity.
Improving the happiness of your employees does not have to mean implementing costly initiatives or radical changes to workplace procedures.
With small steps and subtle alterations, employers can boost workforce morale and productivity. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, meaning employers should look at a number of approaches and tactics to nurturing and hiring happy employees.
Are happy employees more productive?
Happy employees are substantially more productive and inclined to ‘go the extra mile’ as compared to dissatisfied employees, providing their happiness coexists with a drive to succeed and a strong belief in the company’s mission. The key to achieving maximum productivity is achieving a high level of happiness coupled with genuine, personal investment in the work being carried out. If your employees are happy, optimistic and care about their work, they will consistently over-perform and drive the organisation forward.
Business benefits of hiring optimistic people
Not only will inspired and happy employees boost productivity, they also serve as an incredible advertisement for your organisation and will help to attract top talent. When seeking new talented employees, rank ‘optimism’ towards the top of your desired attributes in candidates.
Optimistic people tend to be very solution oriented. Focusing on the problem rather than the resolution can lead to a defeatist attitude which will quickly spread throughout your workforce. Employees who are optimistic generally have the ‘can-do’ attitude needed to solve even complex problems quickly and effectively. Studies have consistently demonstrated that high-performing employees score highly on both optimism scales and tests designed to measure their reaction to pressure.
As happiness has also been shown to increase engagement, happy employees tend to produce a higher quality of work. They will demonstrate an increased attention to detail and will be more tuned in to the needs of your customers or clients.
Hiring happy employees
Maintaining a happy and optimistic workforce is easier when your employees are naturally inclined towards these traits.
Use the recruitment process to try and get an indication of applicants’ personalities and whether they seem to approach situations with positivity or pessimism. Open-ended interview questions can be revealing. For example, if you were to ask during an interview: “Tell me about an unexpected set-back you had to deal with during your previous job.”; if the response focuses on the setback itself and ‘excuses’ surrounding it, it may suggest a more pessimistic outlook than a response that focuses on the solution and what the interviewee actually did.
This will not of course be a foolproof approach, and employers will need to recognise that it takes more than trying to hire happy people to build a happy workforce. Employers should take steps to maintain the happiness and positivity of their existing workforce. If you do not create an environment in which optimism can flourish, the disposition of the people you hire becomes irrelevant.
Can you make employees happy without giving them a pay rise?
Pay rises are the traditional go-to solution for employers who recognise dissatisfaction among their workforce. After all, an organisation that takes good care of its workforce cultivates happy employees. However, looking after your workforce is not simply a matter of offering them financial rewards. In fact, these perks are known to be substantially less effective in maintaining employee happiness longer-term, when compared to a positive workplace culture. This is particularly the case for millennial workers, who are shown to value the likes of work culture, opportunity for advancement, flexibility, and fulfilment. So while material incentives are an important part of any happiness management strategy, increasing attention should be paid to the creation of a meaningful and inspiring work environment.
How to keep employees happy & cultivate a happy workforce
Creating a meaningful work experience requires a multi-facetted approach which considers all aspects of the employee’s life and working environment. Analyse the employee engagement strategy of the leading organisations in any industry and you will consistently see the following tactics being used.
- Creating community
Employees should feel a strong community connection with their colleagues. Consider group social activities and fun team-building exercises to help foster this connection. Make sure your employees feel supported and acknowledged by the managers and leaders within the company.
- Providing challenge
Finding a way to make even mundane tasks interesting will encourage positivity and engagement. When this is difficult, consider giving your employees training opportunities and other avenues for personal development.
- Maintaining inspiration
Employees must buy into your company’s values and overall mission statement. A strong belief that what you are doing matters is a powerful motivating force and creates workplace satisfaction.
Employee happiness strategies must be both top-down and bottom-up in their approach. When company leaders and managers set a precedent for positivity, caring and support, employees will follow suit. In addition, employers must consider the concerns, desires and day-to-day motivations of even their lowest-level employees. Listening to what your workers actually want and need is the key to creating a happy and productive work environment.
Optimistic managers create happy employees
The leaders within your workforce have an extremely important part to play in maintaining employee happiness. Leading by example, managers can increase employee optimism and happiness by placing emphasis on goals and solutions, while steering people away from negative trains of thought.
These tactics work as follows:
- Goal setting: Giving employees clear and realistic goals to achieve will encourage motivation and increase satisfaction when targets are met.
- Solutions, not problems: For every problem that arises there are almost always several potential solutions. When setbacks occur, the optimistic manager should instantly turn attention towards finding a solution rather than allowing employees to get caught up in the problem.
Cultivating happiness can also begin with something as simple as a smile. Research demonstrates that smiling when dealing with a person gives them a more positive impression of the interaction. Managers should seek to smile more when dealing with employees and should hire new members of staff who smile frequently over equally qualified applicants who do not.
Dealing with negativity in the workplace
Even in the happiest working environments, negativity cannot be completely eradicated. It is important that managers deal with pessimistic attitudes promptly but without adding further negativity to the mix.
When an employee complains or whines about a perceived problem, reprimanding them for that attitude will only make the situation worse. Instead, acknowledge the employee’s feelings and then ask them to start thinking about possible solutions, working with them until a solution has been found.
Similarly, a solutions-oriented approach should be used when addressing employees’ personal problems, mental health issues and other sensitive situations.
While it is important to listen to the employee talk about their problem and give them the opportunity to express how they feel, your emphasis should be on finding out what the employee thinks would best help them move past or cope with the issue.