The 5 Crucial Steps to Employee Happiness and Why It’s so Important

In this guest post by Cathi Shovlin from Human Revolutions, we discover five crucial steps to employee happiness, and why employee happiness is so important to any organisation.

Happiness is described by Wikipedia as ‘a mental or emotional state of wellbeing defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy’. It can be difficult for business leaders and managers to get to grips with how they can help their employees achieve happiness, why they should even try to… and whether they will know when they have succeeded.

The reality is, employers cannot ‘make’ their people happy. But they can create the conditions in which happiness is more likely to manifest itself. Employers need to consider the potential impact of their actions on the happiness and wellbeing of their people – and the knock-on effect on the performance of their business.

Did you know that 65% of your staff are capable of delivering 35% more discretionary effort towards achieving your organisation’s goals?

While 25% of your people are fully engaged, 65% will be putting in just enough effort to do their job, and the remaining 10% are busy impacting negatively on their colleagues. Happy employees are more productive. Happy employees are typically those 25% who are actively engaged, who feel they can influence the direction of their own work and of the organisation overall.

To help demystify workplace happiness and make the intangible concept a liveable reality, here are our five key steps for developing a happier, healthier, better engaged and more productive workforce.

Provide purpose to your people

For people to be happy in their work they need to feel that what they do makes a difference. It is about creating a shared vision and strategic direction. Employees need to understand their role, the common purpose of the organisation and their part within it. If somebody operates in a purposeless vacuum, they will feel redundant in the workplace long before you actually take them through redundancy. Employees need to feel connected to the ethos of the organisation.

By encouraging corporate social responsibility initiatives, or engaging in the local community, or doing charitable fundraising events, your people will feel a greater social purpose that will drive happiness. It’s also a great way of connecting with the personal values and interests of your people.

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It’s not enough for you to value your people… they have to feel it

The extent to which your employees feel valued by your organisation is directly correlated to their levels of engagement and happiness. They want to be recognised for their particular expertise and contributions, to be treated respectfully and equitably, to be led and managed well with two-way open and meaningful dialogue, and to be rewarded fairly and in ways that are meaningful to them (salary is only a small part of that!).

Pay commensurate to role and skills is a factor in achieving happiness. But it is not enough on its own. In fact, if it is relied upon as the only method of reward, your people are likely over time to feel short-changed. Find out what motivates each of your people, and find a way to act on it. ‘Thank you’, ‘well done’ and ‘great job’ are nice rewards, too.

Employee Happiness

Photo: utpal. Flickr.

Stretch and challenge your people

Creating a culture of learning and development is critical to employee engagement. Investing in the careers of your people generates innovation and commitment. Realising the full potential of your people is good for them and good for your business.

Remember – learning and development is not just about sending people on a course: it can include delegating discrete projects, positioning people on cross-organisational action groups, workplace coaching and mentoring. And if you do send your people off on a course, be sure to engage their learning back in the workplace. Having provided your people with purpose, ensure you then give them the space and freedom to achieve their goals and objectives.

Encourage good health amongst your people

Happiness is linked to our sense of wellbeing, and feeds our dynamism and resilience. Promote health and wellbeing initiatives. They don’t have to cost a lot of money – in fact, many can be free and might simply be signposting to external sources. Don’t just record absences; analyse the data to spot trends and hot-spots in your organisation. Identify and tackle cases of stress or mental ill-health: doing so can significantly reduce both short-term and long-term sick leave, and increase engagement and perceptions of the workplace.

Focus as much on wellness as you do on sickness: the significant majority of your employees have not contributed to absence levels and will appreciate recognition for their efforts in keeping well enough to attend work regularly.

For people to be happy in their work they need to feel that what they do makes a difference.
– Cathi Shovlin

Encourage work-life quality

Instead of helping your people achieve work-life ‘balance’, focus on helping them achieve work-life ‘quality’. Balance suggests achieving something equally distributed; this may not be achievable for those who work full-time. A focus on work-life balance might leave many employees feeling out of kilter, and achieving quality will mean different things to different people.

Health, wellbeing and happiness at work is less about the number of hours worked and more about what you do at work, how intensely you have to do it, whether your skills are fully utilised, and how well led you are.

In Summary

We cannot guarantee that these five steps to employee happiness will result in intense joy amongst all of your people, but we defy any employee in these conditions not to feel at least contented!


About Cathi Shovlin

Cathi Shovlin, Chartered MCIPD  FCMI  MInstLM, is founder of Human Revolutions, whose aim is to transform employment practices in the UK, ensuring employers gain the very best from their people and that employees achieve the most out of their work. Cathi is also is a Non-Executive Director of a mental health charity, and share-holding Director of a social enterprise.

She is a fully qualified Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development, Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and Member of the Institute of Leadership and Management.

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