I’m really excited about this week’s blog. There’s a fundamental shift taking place in the world of work that no business can afford to ignore. And as business owners and employers this cuts to the heart of whether our businesses will be successful or not, and so what our financial futures will be.
This week I had an incredibly fun interview with Lynn Hord, a leading authority and expert on happiness in the workplace, and who runs the Joy at Work program for blue chip companies. I wanted to find out what this shift was all about and what we as small business owners needed to know.
Here’s the thing.
People are waking up to the fact that happiness is more important than money. Choosing things, jobs, careers and companies that will make them happy. People used to be happy with a pay check and some security and didn’t really expect anything else from work. But the desire for meaning and purpose has outstripped security and they want more. (Maybe as security is becoming a thing of the past?) And we’re not just talking Millennials, the search for meaning is spreading through all age groups.
They want to be happy. At work.
And that’s a big problem for many companies because they’re still running on the old model. To be fair it’s only been over the last 10 years that the idea of being happy at work has been gaining ground but it’s something we need to wake up to fast.
It’s easy to dismiss this happiness stuff as irrelevant, a nice to have, not business-like or commercial or even a bit woo-woo. But the thing we’re missing is that we employ humans who have feelings, and they don’t stop being human, or having feelings when they get to work.
How we feel massively impacts the work we do. And happy people = a happy business = more profit?
Some work-happiness facts
Over the last 10 years a number of scientifically based research projects have been done, including by Harvard. So this isn’t just the fluffy people talking:
- Happy employees are 30% more productive
- They have 10 less sick days a year
- Happy sales people make 30% more sales
- Happy companies outperform their competitors by 20%
Employees will choose who they want to spend their time with
Anyone in business knows that finding good staff is already difficult. How much harder will it be to get and keep those great people if you’re not a happy business?
So what can we do? And is it difficult?
As you know, I’m all about the practical, so I gave Lynn a good grilling on the most practical things we can do to make our staff happier.
1) Vision – where are you going?
Make sure everyone understands where your business is going, and how they contribute to that vison. People need to feel included, not separate and isolated, and it really impacts on their productivity. And they really want to feel that what they do matters and they’re part of the bigger picture. To feel like part of a team on a mission together.
2) Unique strengths
Help your team work to their unique strengths, rather than force them to do something they’re not naturally good and don’t want to do. We get so much joy from our work when we do the things we’re best at; performance is higher and the stress levels are lower. This taps into creativity, more focus on solutions, more collaboration and better teams as people rely on each other’s strengths more.
The opposite is the demotivation and dissatisfaction you get when you put people in a box and don’t let them use their natural skill set.
Try having a conversation around “you’re really good at ……. how can we bring this into your work?”
3) Give your staff more freedom
Ooooooh I can feel you bristling at this one! But let me finish!
Giving people the freedom to figure out how they work best, and how to structure their own day to get their work done can unleash huge benefits. Yes you need to set some boundaries but if they know how they contribute to your company, are given responsibility for delivering that, and are trusted to get on with it without being micro-managed, you’ll be amazed at the returns you’ll get. And they won’t want to lose that freedom, so trust them to deliver.
4) Positive feedback and genuine appreciation
SO simple to do, and yet we can find it easier to nit-pick on what someone did wrong.
If we focus on giving specific positive feedback before and after something they do, it increases their confidence, happiness and outcomes massively. We all love recognition and getting praised, and it makes us want to do more great work to get more praise. Constant criticism doesn’t have any place in a happy business, it destroys souls.
So stop looking for what they did wrong, start looking for opportunities to praise.
If your business is a high pressure “can’t make a mistake” culture you’ll have unhappy and stressed out people. And that leads to burnout.
5) Community and friends
Awwwww doesn’t that sound lovely? But get real; this is the workplace not a social club right?
But having a friend at work makes us around 50% happier to go to work every day. Liking and respecting the boss means people will willingly go the extra mile or 2. As humans we need social connection and to feel we belong, and having this connection at work helps to manage short and long term stress.
So when you see members of your team having a chat, join in instead of glaring at them, and encourage connection between them. Imagine how fewer petty disputes you’ll have between the kids, sorry, I mean staff.
And the worst things you can do?
I’m sure you don’t do any of these, but just in case …..
- Don’t tell people what’s going on – keep them in the dark
- Constant negative criticism and micromanaging
- Silent offices with no community or communication
- Not listening to your staff and not valuing their ideas and opinions
- Making people feel like they’re constantly on the clock and chained to their desks
- Not letting people use their natural skills and strengths
The bottom line
What’s your culture? Because you can’t fake this. If you really don’t care then it won’t work, and as more people cotton on to being happy at work, you’re going to struggle to hold onto people – they’ll all be working for the happy companies!
Commit to being a happy company; the compelling benefits are: less stress and burnout, less days off sick, higher productivity, more loyalty and commitment, better financial results and a business set to last the next few years.
Want more proof? I’ve been talking to Martin and Danielle who run Nottingham’s leading recruitment firm Cherry Professional and they tell me that candidates are a lot more demanding and are looking at an overall package that includes work-life balance, meaning, contribution and prospects, as well as wanting amazing work space.
So, this isn’t going away. It’s going to become more and more important in our work culture as the world shifts to the importance of happiness and meaning in our professional lives. I think if we don’t change then we’ll get left behind.
If you’d like to find out more about Lynn’s work with companies, or to read her articles on the subject then you can find her here
And if you’d like to read more about happiness at work, this is Lynn’s recommendation