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May 27 — Research indicates that the happiness of workers matters because happy employees stay twice as long in their jobs, spend more time energized in the workplace and are achieving their goals at a higher rate than their unhappy co-workers, practitioners said May 26.
The reality of today's workplace, however, shows that employers are failing at this because worker happiness has fallen every year for the past 25 years, Mary Faulkner, head of talent for Denver Water, told attendees of a webinar sponsored by consulting firm Globoforce. Additionally, talking about happiness in the workplace isn't always that well received, Faulkner said. “It makes people cringe.”
But employers should pay attention, because happy employees can affect a business’s bottom line, as they are 10 times less likely to take sick leave and are 85 percent more efficient at work, Faulkner said. Faulkner defined happiness as a state of being, a general sense of joy or being in a good mood, and it can manifest in employees' satisfaction and engagement in the workplace, creating a positive and successful employee culture.
Employers can boost the happiness of employees through three universal drivers, Greg Stevens, a research consultant at Globoforce, told webinar attendees. The first driver of happiness is alignment, meaning the fundamental compatibility between employees’ visions, goals and values and those of the organization.
Alignment means more than an employee’s “fit” with the organization, Faulkner said. HR needs to understand how an employee’s work contributes to the strategic goals of the organization, and whether workers have an opportunity to “make a difference” at the company, she said.
The search for individuals who will align well with an organization must start with recruitment, Faulkner advised. New hires should have an accurate job description and a realistic job preview, she said. HR should also make sure a candidate will fit in with a company’s culture, Faulkner said. Bad fits “will impact your organization’s morale,” because employees who display traits that make them jerks, malcontents or passive-aggressive bullies will always pull others down.
Stevens said the second driver of happiness is positivity as a company's “overall affect or mood of employees.” This can be cultivated by celebrating employees' success publicly and within the organization; offering fast, positive feedback to employees; encouraging communication among workers; offering resources and emotional support in the workplace; and encouraging employees to express gratitude to each other, Faulkner said.
It’s amazing “how simple, yet powerful things like gratitude and recognition can be,” Stevens added.
Progress is the third universal driver of employee happiness, Stevens said, because employees want career opportunities and accomplishment that shows that “they can get somewhere.”
Faulkner recommended employers set clear, measurable and achievable organizational goals to show employees how they fit into the bigger picture of the company. Employers can also offer training for new and existing skills and reward the efforts of employees who take advantage of these opportunities.
Despite the advantages of a happy workforce, employers shouldn't try to force the emotion on workers, Faulkner warned. Every person is unique, and happiness can look different depending on the individual, she said.
Employers shouldn't expect happy employees to stay that way indefinitely, either, she said. Life can get in the way of happiness, and pressure to improve someone’s mood will not work.
A happier workforce can also mean a more casual workforce, Faulkner cautioned. Happy employees can blur the lines between professional and personal life if work lunches turn into happy hours, which turn into going out on the weekend. This can especially be harmful to relationships between leaders and employees, and they might forget that there are some boundaries that need to exist in the workplace, she said.
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