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Creating a Happy Workforce in Today’s Workplaces Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, we started this two part series discussing the hiring and retaining cream of the crop employees. We said that it is, to say the least, very challenging in today’s competitive marketplace. Creating a happy and productive workforce is not an easy task, Workplaces have up to 4 generations in the workplace with different values and this presents some big challenges.

There are ways employers can create a happy workforce. A happy workforce leads to better productivity. Here are a few ideas that lead to happy employees:

Agile Workplace: Many of today’s younger employees don’t want to be tied down to working in one place. They want the flexibility to be able to where where and when they want. If you want to attract and retain them, consider implementing an agile workplace strategy that focuses on productivity rather that time at the office.

Minimal “Hassles”: Employees become frustrated with unnecessary paperwork, endless reporting requirements, complicated or confusing expense reports, and other administrative tasks. While these types of requirements can probably not be completely eradicated, they can be made as simple and easy as possible and required only if there is a true, useful purpose. Too often, three reports containing the same information in differing format could easily be replaced with one report that is delivered to three departments needing the information. Look for ways to remove useless repetition or needless reports and design those that are required to be easy and quick to accomplish accurately.

Sense of Purpose and Achieving Something Important: No everyone can be brain surgeons, but every employer needs to help employees feel they are achieving something important other than making money for the organization. The happy employee will have a clear understanding of how their part in the company matters to the team, the customer, the community, or perhaps even the world. No one should feel  as if they are just a  tiny cog in a big machine and that they don’t really matter. A person needs to have a sense  that their daily efforts matter.

Variety and Challenge: People are happy when their work is challenging, making them use their skills and learn new skills. They also enjoy a variety of tasks in a day or week so that they do not become bored and mindless about their work.  Employees that perform challenging work  that stretches them to use their skills to the max, but are not  outside their abilities completely, almost always tell others that their jobs are satisfying.

Feedback: Employers should provide feedback, both positive and negative. Without feedback, employees feel neglected or think they must be doing poorly  at their jobs since  employees may think “no news is probably bad news”.  A simple stop by a desk or a phone call to tell someone they did a good job and are appreciated can go  miles in building employee satisfaction and happiness. Periodic formal employee reviews  and goal setting are important and should be used as one means to  justify pay increases, but the format should keep the idea of minimal hassles in mind so that employees don’t dread when evaluation time rolls around again. Compensation should be perceived to be fair and indicate clearly that  dedication productivity, innovation, and goal achievement results in satisfying  pay increases while  marginal performance by doing the minimum will result in small  or no pay increases.

Autonomy: The word autonomy as applied to a job simply means having some degree of control over how the work is accomplished. In today’s agile workplaces, autonomy is becoming more common but even in desk jobs, allows employees to do the ir assigned tasks in ways that work for them, as long as the outcome is positive and meets all the needs of internal and external customers. Even in mundane jobs, people who are allowed to  have as much control over how they do their tasks as possible have a sense of  power and satisfaction. . Micromanagement of workers is a sure killer of autonomy, Instead, assign, empower, and check that delivery occurs on time in with quality.  According to a report from the University of Kent, UK, “Studies have suggested that autonomy is twenty times better at predicting happiness than income. People with high income but little autonomy are usually much less happy than people with a low income but control over what they do…” Further, The Whitehall Study, a United Kingdom study of civil servants, reported that workers with little or no autonomy about their work actually developed poor health more often than workers that had more control over their work, even though the person with little autonomy might have been in the upper pay grades.

Support and Caring: Employees that know their employers truly care about them as people and support them in their efforts to achieve and improve  tend to feel happy.  Employers that provide a work-life balance to employees through agile workspaces and  where practical, schedule flexibility, tend to have satisfied, happy employees.  Having a bond  with other employees and feeling as if there are friends at work also lends to employee happiness, so those 5-10 minutes at the coffee pot , if not abused, may well end  up increasing production throughout the day rather than be a waste of a few short minutes.

Reasonable Stress: No job is totally without stress but jobs that place unnecessary stress on employees are sure to create unhappy team members.  Noted author Natalie Goldberg put it quite well: “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.”  Emergencies do arise but avoid creating undue stress by avoiding creating emergencies — enough of those will arise on their own.  Recognize outstanding accomplishment when employees do rise to an emergency and succeed in dealing with it.

Holidays and Vacations: Holiday time with family and friends is important to employees but not every job can stop and let every employee have every holiday off. Be sure that every employee gets a fair share of holiday time or ask for volunteers to work the holiday. Oftentimes single employees with no local family will readily volunteer to allow their colleagues to be with family. . Acknowledge their sacrifice with kind words and appropriate holiday pay. Provide employees the ability to earn enough vacation time to refresh themselves from long periods of work, whether they like to take a long weekend here and there or schedule a full week or two weeks off once a year.

In Closing: It can be the little things that matter the most.

  • A kind word telling someone you know they are working hard and doing well.
  • A meeting where employees can say what they would like to see change that might improve processes or reduce stressful tasks.
  • A few minutes in your office behind closed doors to say how much it meant that they offered to work overtime on a project so that another employee could be off early to pick up his sick child.

Those things go a long way to make an employee extra happy and satisfied with their job. These are just a few ways to help your company create loyal, satisfied, and truly happy employees that will want to work for your firm for years to come.

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By: James Osgood

Creating a Happy Workforce in Today’s Workplaces Part 1

Hiring and retaining cream of the crop employees is, to say the least, challenging in today’s competitive marketplace. Creating a happy and productive workforce is not an easy task, Workplaces have up to 4 generations in the workplace with different values and this presents some big challenges. Employees that are happy and satisfied with their jobs are less likely to actively seek other jobs. Studies show that hey are more productive. They come to work with smiles and those smiles make their interactions with clients and customers pleasant and effective.

Unhappy employees, on the other hand, continually seek other work, often sneaking office time in to submit resumes online or search online job databases for jobs.  Often their unhappiness with work flows over, impacting their health and family lives in negative ways.  This can easily turn into a vicious cycle, with the employer paying for sick days, vacation and personal days that the employee isn’t using to recover from illness or, in the case of vacation, to truly refresh them and return to work ready to produce.

Much research has been accumulated on the topic of what motivates workers and how to maintain a productive yet happy workforce. Over the past decade, research results have shown that businesses, from the smallest start-up to the largest corporations, people produce more if they have positive emotions about their work.

Gallup, the highly respected data collection and comparison experts, put the link between employee emotions and corporate outcomes into dollars and cents. Their research revealed that lost productivity because of employee disengagements (read employee unhappiness) costs more than $300 billion annual in the US. James Harter and colleagues, in another Gallup study that a business unit’s sales and profits at a point in time are directly predicted by how the employees feel about the organization at earlier points in time. In other words, how the employees felt about their jobs while doing the work that generated the profit and loss statement directly showed up in the P&L figures at the end of the period.

This indicates that maintaining a happy, satisfied workforce is critical to any business’s success. Unhappy employees simply don’t produce more than the bare minimum to keep their jobs while happy team members are innovative and do their very best for the company.

Compensating employees fairly is, of course, a factor in maintaining team happiness. And during the past years of the economic downturn, people pretty much accepted whatever job conditions they had to put up with to earn their paychecks. But today America’s marketplace is  well into recovery and the future looks brighter and brighter, especially in the knowledge based marketplaces.

While every organization is different and every company can’t provide campuses like Google’s or Microsoft’s. Almost all jobs have some tasks that are tedious or boring. But there are ways employers can promote happy employees. Next week, in part 2, we will present few of these factors that lead to happy employees.

Go to Creating a Happy Workforce in Today’s Workplaces Part 2