Is Happiness in the Workplace the Key to an Engaged and Productive Workforce?

Is Happiness in the Workplace the Key to an Engaged and Productive Workforce?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

There is a productivity problem in the UK and your employer could be to blame. According to a study by a team of economists at the University of Warwick, happiness is one of the most important factors that contributes to an engaged and productive workforce. The study found that happy workers created a 12% increase in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10% less productive than the norm. It sounds simple and that’s because it is - happiness does have significant positive effects on productivity, so it pays for businesses to embrace a culture of happiness.

Happier employees tend to be more engaged, so happiness, engagement and productivity in the workplace are intrinsically linked. And at a time when the UK is lagging behind many other developed countries in terms of its productivity, keeping employees happy is a workplace priority.

People engage with their job and their organisation based on things like the type of work they are asked to do, their work environment, their career prospects, and the way their boss speaks to them. If organisations are serious about employee engagement and happiness, these are the basics that need to be in place. Then there are the extras, the incentives they can offer their staff, such as employee benefits and voluntary benefits.

The little things are key, making people’s pay go a little bit further by providing them with a shopping discount, or enabling them to use an app to book their family holiday immediately and get the deal they want. It’s those feelings, the personal touches and emotional attachments, that make people feel happier.

Personal Group recently conducted a ‘Hapi’ survey of 1274 UK employees about their happiness at work.  Unfortunately, according to the results, both efficiency and enthusiasm are down. Therefore, it stands to reason that UK productivity is low.

With UK productivity levels falling this could be another red flag for the economy. Enthusiasm for work has decreased across all respondent groups in the past 12 months, but the largest drop is amongst male workers. In 2017, half of male employees were enthusiastic about their work often or most of the time, only 35% share the same level of enthusiasm this year. This lack of enthusiasm is affecting every level of the workforce. The number of senior managers and department heads reporting that they never or rarely feel they are working as efficiently as possible has almost doubled since our last survey in 2017.

The ‘Hapi’ survey results were also benchmarked against responses from approximately 41,000 employees working for engagement-orientated businesses (those businesses actively investing in employee engagement initiatives). The trends are clear, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, lack of pride in our work and a loss of enthusiasm are having a profound impact of employees across the UK. Much more must be done to tackle unhappiness in the workplace and to ensure employees feel valued, appreciated and motivated. There is significant proof that employees of businesses which have employee engagement initiatives implemented are more motivated and enthused in the workplace.

As a country we need re-focus our efforts and do more to drive happiness in the workplace. Front line workers are the engine of the UK economy, and if we can do more to engage and excite these workers, the impact on a business’s bottom line could be phenomenal.

The general decline of happiness at work could go some way to explain the UK productivity gap. But how can you effectively increase employee’s happiness and overall engagement? For employees to be fully engaged and happy at work employees need these three basic things:

1. A feeling of inclusion in company issues

In the workplace, communication is key. Employees want to know that they — and their organisations — are doing something big that matters to other people. And for many of these employees, shareholder value isn’t a meaningful goal that excites and engages them, so make sure to keep them informed about a variety of issues. With more employees working remotely and some staff not even having access to a company email address, it is important that you cater your Internal Communications strategy to keep all staff in the loop.

As part of an effective communication strategy, employees from different age groups should be encouraged to recognise and appreciate that they have different skillsets and different ideas, that individually and as a team, bring value to the organisation.

To maximise communication efforts across several generations of staff, a personal approach to understanding what works best for individual employees is crucial. With more generations in the workplace in before, organisations need to understand that one size doesn’t fit all. The best way to understand how staff prefer to be kept in the loop is to ask them. Pulse surveys, feedback sessions or even a quick chat with staff can help senior management understand how the workforce is really feeling.

Regardless of age, location or job level, employers need to communicate clearly and allow employees to have their opinions heard. They can do this by building diverse working groups or teams based around a project or business objective setting out clear expectations of what needs to get done and when, while encouraging individuals within those groups to identify their strengths and be aware of their differences in order to reach the desired outcome. Using this feedback to shape an effective Internal Communications strategy will help shape a happier, more inclusive workforce.

2. The knowledge that they are making a difference

The right reward and recognition programme can increase employee: motivation, performance, communication, morale, retention and overall engagement. When you recognise and reward a high level of service, you are not only helping staff to feel valued, but encouraging this positive, productive behaviour that can help the entire organisation. The majority of reward and recognition programmes are, which allows access anytime and anywhere and encourages in the moment recognition.

Using in the moment Reward and Recognition programmes to recognise employees can significantly decrease the time it takes for them to receive acknowledgement for their achievements. Whether the reward is financial, an internal announcement or simple thank you, having processes already in place speeds up the procedure. The longer it takes to reward an employee, the less value this accolade will have.

However, reward and recognition schemes are not a one size fits all solution; variety is crucial when it comes to staff rewards. Using new technology is all well and good, but it is still important for morale that staff are recognised individually by both their managers and peers. You can easily create a range of awards so there is an element of personalisation, some of which can be presented physically and others digitally. Make sure to get staff involved in the decision process when it comes to staff incentive ideas, as increasing employee involvement has a strong positive impact on both your overall employee engagement and participation levels.

3. Good inter-office relations

We know that people join an organisation and leave a boss - a dissonant relationship with one’s boss can be painful. The same applies when for bad relationships with colleagues. In our survey, leaders, managers, and employees have all told us that close, trusting and supportive relationships are hugely important to their state of mind — and their willingness contribute to a team.

A manager’s job is not to create motivation and engagement, rather, it is to tap into their employees’ motivation and sustain engagement. A great manager must gauge environmental factors, nurture relationships and foster an organisational culture where employees are trusted, respected and expected to accomplish their work goals.

It is not only a good relationship with managers that increases employee engagement, a company culture that encourages friendships between co-workers is likely to produce far more engaged employees. It’s important to offer opportunities for colleagues to socialise outside of work hours, consider organising team building events or activity days that are available to employees and their families alike.

Annie McKee drills home the point in her popular HBR piece when she states, "Added up, brain science and our organizational research are in fact debunking the old myths: emotions matter a lot at work. Happiness is important. To be fully engaged, people need vision, meaning, purpose, and resonant relationships."

If you want to increase engagement and unlock discretionary effort among your employees to boost productivity, you must provide them with a workplace and a culture that will make them feel happy.

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