The “Happiness Agenda” Continues to Emerge Globally

Happy-manEnsuring the happiness of customers and clients has always been a cornerstone of successful businesses. However, employee happiness was not always top of mind. In the last few years, the concept began to gain traction as study after study highlighted the impact a happy work environment can have on company profits. As conversations and research continue to unfold, the topic grabs even more attention.

Years ago, dialogue around the subject of happiness would have been reserved for philosophers, psychologists, motivational speakers and yoga instructors. Today, these conversations are occurring globally in offices across the business spectrum going well beyond HR departments. International politicians, governments and the UN are among those discussing the topic. Today, it is common practice to hear economists engage psychologists to discuss how happiness can truly impact productivity. Businesses are pushing to understand how they can apply this concept to their own environments. Why? Because studies increasingly demonstrate how productivity increases when people feel happy at work. You may hear this idea also referred to as engagement, well-being, or “human flourishing”. Bottom line, it all refers back to the same general idea: happy employees mean improved productivity and increased profits. Research around employee engagement and the link to profitability is irrefutable. Findings also show that the effects can be longer lasting than just one particular day.

In a recent study from the UK’s Warwick University, economists found that happiness increases productivity by around 12%. Satisfaction and motivation increase as well as an overall feeling of a happier life. So, even if you’re all about money and money alone, promoting happiness makes good business sense.

Having extensive experience in the staffing and recruitment industry, where the needs of both companies and employees can fluctuate often, understanding how to engage employees quickly and the impact positive work environments have on the speed at which contingent workers acclimate to new assignments has always been of great interest. Working with thousands of organizations, managers and leaders over the years has added great insight into the value of a happy workplace. Sharing best practices of positive work environments has now become mainstream.

A 2013 Gallup study found that only 30 percent of American employees felt enthused by their jobs; 70% felt they weren’t utilizing their full potential. The 2013 State of the American Workplace Report estimated that extensive disinterest and discontent in professional life not only impacted a company’s performance but also cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. It is clear that making an effort to promote engagement is worth it.

Of course it is understood that happiness is unique and very personal; ultimately, we are all responsible for our own happiness. That said, there are things businesses can do to focus, improve and encourage a happy environment. Cary L. Cooper, professor of organizational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School and co-author of Wellbeing: Productivity and Happiness at Work, shares that poor productivity is often related to poor management.

There are simple things that can be done to promote an overall happy workplace. Investigation confirms that salary is usually not the top reason employees leave jobs; feeling under-valued or unappreciated is very often the top reason. Make no mistake, creating happiness takes leadership, purpose and drive.

Research on Outcomes of Creating Happy Work Environments:

  • Increased overall performance
  • Reduced loss of productivity due to illness
  • Increased employee retention
  • Happy employees not only work harder but obtain a higher feeling of company ownership
  • Happy employees tend to attract people who are equally committed to the job
  • Employees become engaged in planning the future
  • Employees are more likely to value working towards their full capacity
  • Improves team effectiveness
  • Improves focus on safety
  • Time is used more efficiently
  • Results in better employee health
  • Happy employees are more apt to go the extra mile
  • Employees are more inspired
  • Increased energy and reduction of stress occurs
  • Creativity expands with regard to problem solving
  • Employees are more helpful to others

An interesting point uncovered was that as long as people are relatively job-secure and earning a reasonable wage, the quality of working life is, at the very least, just as important. In the Mercer global engagement scale developed with thousands of workers in the UK, US, Japan, India, Germany, France and China, base pay as a motivator comes low down a list of 12 factors that engaged workers.

The top motivator was respect: how much employee value and trust does their organization exhibit. Next was type of work: providing good service to customers. Followed by the people one works with then, work-life balance.

 What can be done to Create a Happy Environment:

  • Lead by example, demonstrate happiness
  • Be someone people want to work for
  • Involve employees in the decision making process, give them the opportunity to have an active say in the decisions of the business
  • Employees should have as much control over their work as is possible
  • Take time to listen to what employees are saying
  • Be visible
  • Share the big picture
  • Be clear about expectations and goals
  • Practice transparency, be honest, build trust
  • Share information and progress
  • Hold regular, open dialogues
  • Be cautious of the overuse of mundane group communications; consider individualized messages
  • Know employees
  • Embrace the value that employees bring
  • Show gratitude
  • Minimize incivility
  • Provide continuous feedback, don’t wait for formalized annual reviews
  • Engage employees in training, mentoring, and support in times of crisis and emergency
  • Make work rewards a value to your team
  • Remove obstacles
  • Treat people respectfully
  • Provide career opportunities
  • Acknowledge successes
  • Support flexible work options
  • Develop strong social and interpersonal skills
  • Manage people by praise and reward vs. fault-finding
  • Support manageable workloads and achievable deadlines
  • Incorporate time for staff members to volunteer, allowing employees to feel a greater sense of purpose
  • Encourage reasonable work-life balance
  • Where appropriate, flexible working arrangements should be available which people can take without damaging their careers or adding to guilt
  • Create a culture that values and encourages employees
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Understand that kindness does counts

Thank you for reading!

What has your experience been? Where do you believe the findings will take us?

Carla Perrotta is an operating leader who was raised through sales and business development. She has extensive experience in growing and expanding firms. Carla enjoys working with companies in growth mode, turnarounds and start-ups. With years in the staffing and service industries she has a keen focus on their greatest asset, people. She can be reached at: