Employee happiness is becoming a hot topic among CEOs and in boardrooms, notes Rob Markey in a Harvard Business Review blog post, “Transform Your Employees into Passionate Advocates.”
“[It’s] one more sign of the growing recognition that happy, engaged employees are more productive and generate better outcomes for their companies,” he writes.
But, he adds, only a few of the things that make employees happy result in real, sustained benefit for their companies. As Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath note in one of a series of HBR articles on employee happiness, “It’s not about contentment, which connotes a degree of complacency.”
Timely, Meaningful Recognition
Markey and his colleagues have studied the links between employee engagement and customer loyalty for a few years, and have found that the only route to employee happiness that also benefits shareholders is through a sense of fulfillment resulting from an important job done well.
It’s about recognizing employees in a timely, meaningful way. Employees should be able to connect the recognition—whether it’s a personal note, a small gift, or both—with their hard work on the company’s behalf.
The Happiness/Productivity Link
Several other organizations weigh in on workers’ mindsets. A Businessweek article by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, “Employee Happiness Matters More Than You Think,” says, “Ultimately … the source of productivity is the individual knowledge workers who get things done every day. And the evidence is clear: People perform better when they’re happier.”
For 10 years Amabile and Kramer researched creativity, productivity, and the psychology of everyday work life. Their findings: “Whether we looked at entrepreneurial startups or large, established enterprises, the same holds true: People are more productive and creative when they have more positive emotions.”
“In fact, we found that, if happier on a given day, people were not only more likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem that same day but also to do so the next day.”
Gallup provides statistics linking employee feelings and corporate outcomes, Amabile and Kramer note. The organization reports that disengaged employees’ lost productivity costs U.S. businesses more than $300 billion a year. Another Gallup study by researcher James Harter and others concluded that employees’ past feelings about an organization can predict sales and profits at a future point in time.
U.K.-based research, too, suggests clear links between workers’ happiness and their productivity. Jamie Doward’s Observer/Guardian article, “Happy people really do work harder,” reports that a team of economists led by Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick Business School and a leading authority on the relationship between economics and mental health, says its research has important implications for the worlds of politics and business.
“We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity,” the team says. “Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.”
The Warwick economists note: “Happier workers … were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.”
Employee Gratitude Done Right
If you show employees they’re valued, they’re more likely to have positive feelings about your company and their jobs. Here are three tips for effective employee recognition:
- Let line managers lead—Immediate supervisors are best equipped to observe when an employee thank you is warranted, or to review the results of performance metrics and recognize top performers.
- Keep it simple—Managers shouldn’t have to wade through complicated reports to determine who their top performers are.
- Customer feedback—What’s more powerful than hearing a customer’s thank you?
As Markey’s HBR article says, “When frontline employees and managers hear directly from customers — when they see how customers scored their experience, when they hear what went right and wrong in the customer’s own words — the effect is dramatic. Applause in the form of positive feedback inspires them to keep up the good work.
“Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively, and find ways to go the extra mile,” he continues. “They bring you more great employees. And that spreads even more happiness — happiness for employees, for customers, and for shareholders.”
How do you ensure your employees receive timely, meaningful recognition? How do you keep workers feeling fulfilled?
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