Employee Happiness – Increasing Productivity and Success Through Engagement

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Job satisfaction and happiness not only keeps employees from turning over, it also increases productivity. Forbes cites a recent study from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania which proved what we’ve know for a while to be true: employees with high levels of job satisfaction perform better than those without. In fact, engaged employees are found to be 12 percent more productive to be exact. Armed with this data, you would assume employers would spend more time and energy making sure their employees were engaged and happy, but a Gallup report shows that up to 63 percent of today’s workforce are not engaged and 24 percent are ‘actively disengaged.’ Professional services firm Tower Perrin concluded that “companies with a low level of employee engagement have a 33 percent annual decline in operating income and an 11 percent annual decline in growth.”

Why is this so vitally important? Forbes reminds us that 3 out of 4 startups fail, meaning that employee happiness and satisfaction may mean the difference between success and failure for new and old businesses alike. The question remains, what is it exactly that makes employees happy?

Many factors together contribute to employee satisfaction and happiness. To understand this, The Energy Project teamed up with Harvard Business Review to conduct a survey of 12,115 workers. Ninety-four percent of these workers were in white-collar jobs. The rest (six percent) were in blue-collar jobs.

According to the survey, employees are most satisfied and productive when their four core needs are met. These are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.

The good news is that satisfying just one need of the four can improve performance. These steps can kick-start a culture that induces employee satisfaction and happiness, which in turn will boost productivity and performance. Just remember everyone’s ideas on happiness will vary greatly, so communicating with your current employees and incorporating their wants and needs in the work culture will result in a positively functioning startup.

Tony Hsieh, Founder and CEO of Zappos, takes work culture so seriously that his company performs two sets of interviews. The hiring manager and his or her team conducts the first set to determine whether the candidate has relevant experience, technical ability, and is a good fit. The HR team conducts the second to ensure that the potential employee would be a good culture fit. Employees have to pass both interviews in order to get hired.

Zappos turns down many talented people who just don’t fit into their culture. For Zappos, the long-term benefits are more important than the short-term benefits. So instead of looking for methods to get new employees to adapt, look for employees who will directly fit into your culture.

You can take it one step further and mandate an employee probationary period like Buffer does. They have a 45-day trial period with an employee called Buffer Bootcamp. During this phase, Buffer assesses the new employee to see if they would fit in with the company. The decision to stay together or part ways depends on how both parties feel at the end of 45 days. Usually 70 percent of new hires stay on. Buffer also takes effective pre-employment steps. They’re well-known for their transparency about their culture, salary packages and everything else offered to make it easy to attract people who fit in.

The secret: motivating employees to work because it makes them happy

On average, people spend 8.8 hours each day working (as compared to 2.6 on leisure and sports). This represents an enormous section of their lives. Businesses need to prioritize bringing fulfillment and happiness to employees. The obvious choice might seem like paying them more, but that does not directly correlate with long-term happiness. Money is a reward that aids as a fuel for a temporary period. Once it’s exhausted, employees lose interest.

Motivate your employees to work because it makes them happy. Then stand back and watch productivity and overall company performance improve.

Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

1 Comment

  1. David Olson on August 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Jamie – I agree with your post 100%! However, you do not indicate a best practice/solution to motivating employees and making them happy… The $50 billion a year industry called employee recognition has been attempting to motivate employees and make them happy through incentivizing them with “stuff”. My co-founder partner and NY Times best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and I understand this approach does not work, which is why we created Recognition PRO™, a cloud-based human resource culture change solution that efficiently and effectively helps managers become better at motivating and recognizing their employees, leading to greater employee engagement. Recognition PRO™ uniquely trains managers, deploys tailored recognition ideas to them, helps them execute the ideas, and tracks their employee recognition activities and successes; thereby reinforcing performance management practices and raising managers RQ™ (recognition intelligence).

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