It seems obvious but sometimes employers lose sight of the fact that happy staff do indeed make better business.
In our recent seminar, we looked at some of the survey results and research into what makes employees happy in the workplace and it turns out that it’s not just what is included in their pay packet at the end of the month. There has been a noticeable upturn in the job market in the past year or so and several large graduate employers reporting that graduates are now starting to turn down job offers. This has made it more difficult to fill their vacancies, so employers are now having to consider more innovative ways to recruit and retain talent in their business.
So what does attract an employee to an organisation?
Culture is apparently the word of the moment - the online dictionary Merriam Webster declared that this was the word of 2014. We can’t say why for sure but it may be that organisations are now looking more at culture and are trying to measure and improve it. Culture is crucial to all organisations, whether it is a start-up, club or global enterprise and will dictate the behaviours and decisions made within that workplace. Happy staff and a good culture go well together. People performance is the biggest issue in business performance - that’s why the best employers invest in company values and employee engagement.
Why is happiness so important?
According to the research, happy employees are 12% more productive. Of course, this may not be the case for everyone but it can be seen that The Fortune 100 Best Employers consistently outperform their competitors on the stock market. Having happy staff will also help improve your image and reputation in the marketplace. According to another survey, 1 in 3 people plan to change jobs in 2015 – twice as many as last year. However, if you have a strong image as a good employer you’re more likely to be able to persuade those people to join you. They’ll become advocates for your business and you’ll be much more likely to retain the talented people already working for you. As an example, Google invests heavily in their employee’s happiness and have reported staff turnover levels of 4% in comparison to the industry average of 22%.
What makes employees happy (other than money)?
- Appreciation and Recognition - we all need to feel valued in every aspect of our lives, including our work. How do you thank your staff and recognise their contribution?
- You may have a formal employee recognition scheme – employee of the month, like you see in Costco.
- You may give employees an extra holiday or a bonus for a job particularly well done.
- Recognition and celebration of life events – marriage, births, new homes etc. But perhaps more importantly, support through the difficult times - divorce or separation, bereavement and illness.
- Meaningful work and a sense of making a difference/doing good in the world.
Communication and Consultation
- People need to have trust in their leaders – and this comes from fairness and transparency. Has your vision been communicated to employees? Do they know where the company is headed? Have they been consulted? Wetherspoons, employing 32,000 staff, has won The Times award for best employer consistently for over ten years. Why? Partly because it encourages employees to get involved in business strategy – it promotes participation and ideas. In other words, it encourages employees to have a voice, and listens to that voice.
- Equally, managers need to communicate with staff about their performance. Do employees know how they are performing in their job? Employees surveyed consistently state that they want regular feedback on their performance, not just at the annual appraisal.
- Health – Not just private medical insurance but the promotion of a healthy lifestyle to employees. Providing healthy options at the staff canteen if you have one, ordering fruit for internal lunches – consulting people what they want to eat (within reason), promoting team sponsored runs, offering assistance to stop smoking etc.
- The physical environment is also important– enough room, natural light, plants, the right supplies and resources, efficient technology, the right temperature – small changes can go a long way and let employees know their employer is investing in them.
- A friendly and collaborative atmosphere. A recent survey of 500 Guardian readers said that friendly colleagues were more important to them than a higher salary.
Career progression/personal development/autonomy
- Make sure you know what your employee’s career goals are. This goes back to communication and regular feedback. What can you do to help them achieve them? Do you allow for ‘career entrepreneurship’ to allow employees to set their career goals and provide the tools to achieve this?
- Generally, people feel far more satisfied taking responsibility for a project and seeing their ideas come to fruition. So, where appropriate give employees freedom and delegate responsibility not tasks.
- What people really want is to be able to successfully balance their working lives with their personal lives, recognising that the boundary between the two is now distinctly blurred.
- Can you offer flexi time, flexible working, remote working, job shares, compressed hours? There is a lot to be said for allowing employees to work at times that they’re most productive. And flexibility helps with staff retention, attracting talent and promoting diversity in the workplace.
- Sir Richard Branson has recently announced that Virgin are introducing unlimited holidays for employees – provided that they are up to date on their work and have necessary cover in place in their absence. This isn’t something that would suit all businesses but does demonstrate how far reaching some of the changes in culture can be.
It stands to reason that happier staff make better employees, which makes for better business results. We all want our jobs to suit our personal lives, to be a friendly, positive environment, to support us when life throws us challenges – this makes people appreciate their jobs and go that bit further for their employers. Of course, smaller business can’t offer what the multi-nationals can there are many small changes that can be made to improve the working lives of your employees and, in many cases, the employer will also reap the benefits in return.
Please also get in touch if you would like to discuss how to introduce some of these changes to your business – we’d also be interested to hear about how you motivate and incentivise staff in your own workplace.
For comprehensive, specialist advice and support for employers for a set annual fee, please see here for more information on Holistic HR.