Is Your Company Lacking in the Happiness Department?
How this might impact your bottom line, and what to do about it.
The Conference Board reports over half of all Americans are unhappy at work today. Are unhappy workers cutting into your company’s bottom line, and how much should human resource managers do to try and increase employee happiness? The science has pointed to two areas where employee happiness makes a big difference—productivity and retention. Improving happiness, even just a smidge, can make a big difference in both of these areas.
The Benefits of Happiness at Work
One of the key, consistent measures of corporate success remains productivity. A more productive workforce means a more profitable firm. While there is still a lot of room for more research into the subject, a widely cited study from 2015 showed happier workers were on average 12 percent more productive than a control group of their peers. For the study, workers in the “happier” group were shown comedy clips or given drinks and snacks. After confirming they were happier than they were previously, they were pitted against the control group of workers in a series of timed tasks with the “happier” groups coming out on top.
Dr. Noelle Nelson who wrote “Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy,” said in Forbes, “When employees feel that the company takes their interest to heart,” (a.k.a. make them happier), “then the employees will take company interests to heart.” Nelson also cites a study by Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’, saying they saw their stock prices rise an average of 14 percent per year compared to six percent for the overall market during the same time period. Seemingly small boosts to happiness created measurable boosts in productivity, something to keep in mind when crafting a plan to increase workplace satisfaction.
A happy workforce doesn’t just mean higher productivity, it also helps foster retention and fights the churn of turnover. Hays found 47 percent of people looking for a new position are doing so because of poor work culture at their current job. Now culture can’t just be fixed with a few clips from the most recent Netflix comedy stand-up special or some workplace beers. Culture takes time to develop and even more time to change. If people are leaving your firm because they perceive it has a subpar or negative culture, there’s nothing as effective as finding – and working to change – the causes of this perception.
Industries Struggling the Most vs. Industries who are Winning
There may also be industry factors at play in workers’ happiness. The online career site CareerBliss.com compiled a list of the happiest and unhappiest industries to work in based on 43,000 independent employee reviews. Reviewers were asked to evaluate nine factors that impacted workplace happiness and culture and rate them on a five-point scale.
Based on the survey data, taken from employees across the United States, mining and agriculture were found to be the host to the largest number of unhappy workers. Only marginally happier were the software and nonprofit industries. Respondents said the lack of growth opportunities and poor compensation were major contributors to their lack of happiness. The happiest industry cited in the survey, perhaps surprisingly, was the government, followed by education. Respondents in both industries said they were most satisfied with the work they were doing daily, and much of their happiness was driven by the feeling that they were giving something back and working to make the world a better place.
There are many ways, surveys being one, to measure employee happiness. Given that employee satisfaction is a major contributor to the bottom line, it should come as no surprise that some companies are taking a radical approach to collect data on happiness. It has been reported that Atlassian, a software company, asks employees “how happy are you” every day via iPads placed at office exits. This has allowed management to quickly address any problems before they permanently impact culture.
Happy Days: How to Make More of Them
For company leaders who are looking to boost morale and impact their teams’ happiness, there are several places to begin.
Certain benefits have been shown to boost corporate morale; employees in a number of surveys have said they would even be willing to take a pay cut to receive benefits such as more flexible hours, paid time off, and other benefits. While giving everyone a new benefits package might help, it’s also not something every business can do. So, what else can be done to help push company culture, retention, and productivity in the right direction?
Justworks, a leading software company in the HR space, recommends firms work to improve their onboarding procedures. With one-third of new employees leaving their positions within six months, it’s important to get the first days of employment right, which can lead to happier employees down the road. Recommendations include having the first day clearly organized for your new hire, making sure they have an onboarding buddy, and making sure to clearly state what the new employee should expect in the position. First impressions really do matter and you want both parties to come away from day one feeling pretty good about each other.
Second, conducting teambuilding outings helps foster better communication and company culture says consulting firm Robert Half. Half recommends everything from March Madness competitions (who doesn’t enjoy betting on a Cinderella) to off-site volunteer opportunities. “Such activities can help staff learn more about their coworkers and boost morale in the workplace,” Half said. Friendly competition between office teams can be a great bonding experience for everyone involved and may even spark some creative solutions to workplace problems.
Finally, make sure you’re expressing gratitude for your employees’ actions. In the time of impersonal Slack, text, and email, taking the time out of one’s day to write a handwritten note (points if it’s on fancy stationery) is a gesture many people won’t forget for a while. You can also recognize employee successes in more public ways such as company newsletters, meetings, or other publications to motivate them to continue to achieve and succeed.
The Making of HR Heroes
Employee happiness is critical to any successful business. By being mindful of how your employees are feeling, you can increase productivity and talent retention in a cost-effective and frankly fun way. Not only will staff be appreciative of HR’s efforts in this department, but upper management will also appreciate the impact your work has on the bottom line. Taking small, consistent steps to improve happiness and company culture can end up making all the difference to everyone.