You'll often hear families say, "When mom/dad is happy, the entire family is happy." Well, that same statement can be translated over to the workplace by saying, "When the employees are happy, the entire business is happy." The problem is that most business owners don't understand this relationship, and even fewer know how to actually make their employees happy. Let's investigate this issue and show you how simple and profitable it is to make your employees happier.
Understanding the Relationship
The relationship seems obvious, yet few business owners invest their time and energy into ensuring employees are satisfied. Instead, "many organizations take a hard-nosed approach that believes stern reinforcement and rigid rules are the best policies for success. While there's nothing wrong with structure, this doesn't have anything to do with workplace happiness and individual employee satisfaction. You can have a structured workplace with happy employees; they aren't mutually exclusive", says Andrew Stickel, Owner of ELOA.org.
According to a study from 1996-2001, an increase in job satisfaction is directly related to a 6.6 percent increase in productivity per hour. This may seem like an obvious statement, but this was one of the first studies to truly identify a quantifiable relationship between these two ideas. It certainly wasn't the last, though.
The Harvard Business Review recently published an analysis of various studies that showed an average of 31 percent more productivity and 37 percent higher sales when employees are happy or satisfied. Another study--this one conducted by economists at the University of Warwick--found that happiness leads to a 12 percent increase in productivity. It also found that unhappy workers are 10 percent less productive than content employees.
According to Johna Revesencio of Fast Company, the incentive for organizations is pretty obvious. "[Research shows] that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive," he writes. "At those times, individuals tend to be more creative and better at solving problems."
But why does happiness and satisfaction impact productivity? Well, there isn't a single answer. Most studies have found that contentment is good for the following reasons:
So, while the numbers may differ from study to study, it's clear that there is a positive relationship between an increase in happiness and an increase in productivity. The key is to find a way to tap into this.
6 Tips for Enhancing Employee Satisfaction
Practically speaking, what does it look like to enhance employee satisfaction and happiness? Well, there are a number of options--and many depend on your current workplace setup and environment--but here are a few of the top tips:
Often times, employees just want to be heard. This includes everyone from the mailroom clerk to the department manager. By listening to your employees, you show that you respect their opinions and truly value them as part of the organization. On the contrary, if you're always overloading your subordinates with information and never giving them a chance to speak, you're essentially telling them that they have nothing of value to contribute. They begin to feel like paid labor - not living, breathing assets.
Listening doesn't always come easy to people in positions of leadership. If you want to become a better listener, you have to make it a priority. Erik Sherman of Inc.com believes you not only have to "create mechanisms for employees to catch your attention and block out time to listen to them, but when you're with employees, you actually do listen."
As a business owner or manager there's a fine line between hovering and ignoring employees. You obviously need to keep an eye on what your employees are doing to ensure they are being productive and following standard protocol, but you must avoid hovering. Employees get anxious and perturbed when superiors are constantly watching them. This drastically kills productivity and simultaneously hampers employee satisfaction.
Your business doesn't have to model itself after hip tech companies like Google or Facebook, but it should promote creativity and personalization in the workplace. Allow employees to decorate their cubicles and offices as they please. Provide downtime for brainstorming sessions and team building exercises. These are opportunities for employees to express themselves--which goes a long way towards being satisfied in a job.
It doesn't work in all situations, but if your company is conducive to telecommuting, don't be afraid to pass this option along to your employees. Allowing employees to occasionally work from home shows them trust. It also allows them to escape the monotony of the same nine-to-five job routine. By changing up their work environment, they're able to enhance creativity and productivity. If telecommuting isn't an option, consider staggering start times so that employees don't have to fight rush hour traffic--which frustrates employees and can alter the start or end of their workday.
Sometimes money speaks the loudest. By offering your employees competitive benefits and perks, you can actually buy their happiness and satisfaction. You still need to focus on other things, but this gives you a good foundation on which to start. Competitive benefits include insurance, flex time, personal days, paid holidays, discounts on products and services, casual dress days, new technology, comfortable workspaces, and more.
Above all else, you must respect your employees. Respect costs nothing, but is held in high regard by employees at all levels. By treating all of your employees like family members, you'll learn to care for them as individuals, not hired labor. Employees will notice this and remain much more content with their positions. "Keep your expectations high and let your employees know you have every confidence in their ability to meet, and exceed them," says author Frances Cole Jones.
Putting it All Together
According to a 2013 Gallup survey, only 13 percent of American employees are "engaged" at work. This means nearly 90 percent of employees don't enjoy what they're doing. This reportedly costs American business as much as $550 billion per year. Are your employees a part of this statistic?
Making employee satisfaction a priority isn't always the easiest or most comfortable task. You may have to forgo some immediate profits to make it happen. However, in the long run it's a worthwhile investment. The happier your employees are, the more productive they'll be, and the better your organization's bottom line will be. Now that's something everyone can agree is a good thing.