According to the latest World Happiness Report (yes, there really is such a thing) Denmark takes the top spot, with Canada (#6), Australia (#10), and New Zealand (#13) among those countries that top the United States (#17).
The report explores exactly what it is that makes people happy about where they live. According to British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, one of the contributing authors, the top countries generally rank highly on all six key factors addressed by the report: a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices, a culture of generosity, a lack of corruption in leadership, healthy life expectancy at birth, and GDP per capita.
These factors have direct corollaries in the workplace, which means that you as the leader are ideally positioned to help the U.S. move up the rankings, not to mention help your employees and, by extension, the overall state of your company. In fact, you have the power to turn your company into the happiest place on earth. Here are six steps to doing just that.
1. Be supportive
You can support your people in many different ways, from providing them with guidance as they learn a new role to backing them up when they go out on a limb to giving them the authority to make decisions within their areas of responsibility (see #2 below). It's extremely important to give your people the freedom to experiment with new ideas, to explore their creativity, and to take chances. And if they fail? Don't punish them. Instead, help them learn from their failure so they can make better choices in the future.
2. Involve employees in decision-making
Although you may be the top dog, you can't and shouldn't try to make every single decision in your business. If you've taken the time to recruit, hire, and retain experienced, talented people, then they've got the smarts and the experience to make decisions, too. By expanding your leadership circle you won't just tap into the full power and potential of your people, you'll help create a happier place for them to work.
3. Be generous
This tip goes far beyond the financial: be generous of spirit, which in the long run is far more important to building a happy organization than any paycheck or bonus could ever be. If an employee needs additional resources to get his or her job done effectively, do what you can to make it happen. If one of your people has a sick parent or child who requires their care, allow for some scheduling flexibility. If someone needs your help and personal guidance, move heaven and earth (and your calendar) to make it happen. Creating a culture of generosity will go far toward improving the happiness of your people.
4. Be truthful--and honest
Many leaders are afraid to scrupulously tell their people the truth, thinking, for some reason, that employees can't handle it. In his book Leading Through Uncertainty, Umpqua Bank CEO Ray Davis points out that it's absolutely critical that leaders always tell the truth, and that, in fact, employees actually crave it, especially in uncertain times. Says Davis, "I always tell our people that they're entitled to get answers to every question they have, I don't care what it is. I let them know I'm not going to defend myself when it comes to their questions, but I will explain what's going on. I also tell them that while they're entitled to answers to every question they may have, that doesn't mean that they're going to like the answers. But it's going to be truthful and I know they can deal with the truth."
5. Provide a safe and healthy place to work
An office doesn't have to be fancy or luxurious to be a good place to work, but it should have good ventilation, good lighting, and comfortable workstations, chairs, and furniture. It should have a welcoming feeling; it should be a place where your people want to spend their workday, not a place they can't wait to leave. If you're not happy working in your office, chances are your people aren't either.
6. Pay your people fairly
While pay and compensation aren't the most important determinants of happiness, if you're not paying your people fairly they will resent it, and they will take their unhappiness out on you, each other, and your customers. Keep tabs on the market rates in your area and make sure your company is paying employees competitively and fairly. It may cost you a little bit more, but you and your business will be rewarded many times over.