4 Things to Know About Employee Happiness (and Why It’s Important)

It’s only natural to believe that employee happiness is contingent on success, but this belief is actually backwards. It’s not that success makes employees happy, but rather that happiness makes employees more successful.

According to a recent study by the University of Warwick and the Institute for the Study of Labor, happier employees are 12 percent more productive and are more passionate about work. In short, a happy employee is a productive employee. Make employee happiness a workplace goal and the rest — engagement, productivity, success — will follow.

The question is, how happy are your employees? Here are four (4) eye-opening facts related to employee happiness and what you can do about them:

1. Some 61 percent of employees thought about searching for a new job in the past year.

If that’s not enough, the same study by Kronos found that, of the 850 U.S. employees surveyed,  more than a quarter thought about looking for a new job in the past week.

What’s driving employees to consider leaving their current companies?  Of the employees who thought about searching for a new job in the past year, 59 percent don’t feel adequately appreciated at work.

Here’s what to do about it: Sometimes the biggest problems have the simplest solutions. In the case of employee happiness and job satisfaction, a simple “thank you” could be the key to holding on to your best people.

When asked what gives them a high sense of satisfaction at work, 55 percent of the employees surveyed by Kronos said receiving a “thank you.” Whether it’s in the form of an “employee of the month reward,” a company shoutout, or a simple pat on the back, noticing their efforts and success, and taking the time to thank them for it, can make a world of difference to your employees.

2.  A quarter of those who received a pay raise say it did not improve their motivation or feelings of happiness and appreciation at work.

It would seem there’s some truth to the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.”

While most employees will readily accept and celebrate a pay raise or bonus, the happiness that results from the extra cash is short-lived, like a caffeine boost. In fact, the Kronos study found that 30 percent of employees said a raise boosted their feelings toward work for a mere month or less.

What to do about it: Long-term employee happiness and overall job satisfaction can’t be achieved through superficial means, like a pay raise — not if the problem is deep-rooted within the workplace culture and leadership. Try these management tips instead:

  • Create an ownership mentality;
  • Give employees clarity and purpose;
  • Provide opportunities to learn and grow;
  • Give employees a voice;
  • Show appreciation for a job well done.

3. Nearly two-thirds of employees work at organizations that lack a strong work culture.

We spend more than half of our waking hours at work, so establishing a workplace culture that aims to motivate, support, and inspire employees is essential to creating a happy workforce. And the key to promoting a strong work culture is to live and work by the organization’s values and goals (and a little ping pong never hurts).

What to do about it: Creating a strong work culture is one thing, but promoting that culture is another. In order to truly support and promote a healthy workplace culture, companies need to go beyond skills and hire for cultural fit.

Hiring people who show enthusiasm about your company’s goals and are ready to embrace them as their own is how you build a truly awesome company culture. Try asking the following questions to help you assess cultural fit:

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  • What management style do you find to be the most motivating?
  • In what type of work environment are you most happy?
  • What did you like best/worst about your previous work environment?
  • What three words would best describe your work style?
  • How do you feel about becoming friends with your co-workers?

4. Half of all employees are dissatisfied with their direct supervisors.

Management has a huge stake in employee happiness levels — and it’s not hard to understand why. A horrible boss can make it hard for employees to feel secure in their jobs and satisfied with their work.

According to a recent study by Gallup, 50 percent of the 7,200 adults surveyed have left a job “to get away from their manager.”

What to do about it: Just as employees need feedback from management to improve at their jobs, management needs feedback from employees to truly excel at theirs. Take the time to speak with employees individually and, most importantly, request feedback.

Questions like, “How can I help you be more successful?” or “If you were in my shoes, what would you do differently?” can help supervisors gain valuable insight into their performance as a manager.