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Apr 26
2012

A Happy Workplace: Does it Really Matter?

Posted by TyKiisel in Untagged 

TyKiisel

 "We often hear that a happy workplace is a great place for productivity," writes Susan Adams at Forbes. "But is that claim just happy talk? Don't happy workers have a tendency to become complacent and goof off?"

I know that I've certainly heard that from time to time over the years. However a new book by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, argue that empirical evidence suggests that happy workers are indeed more productive. The authors identify what they call the three "E"s and suggest that this is the definition of a happy workforce:

  • Engaged: the employee is attached to the company and willing to put out extra effort
  • Enabled: the company environment supports the employee's productivity and performance
  • Energized: the employee feels a sense of well-being and drive

I've been a big fan of these particular concepts for a long time, however after collecting data from 700 companies in 2009 and 2010 interviewing 303,000 employees that displayed what the authors identified as "high-performance business results" there seems to be a measurable connection. They argue an increase in "...operating margins of better than 27% during a time when the economy was struggling," writes Adams. "The authors claim those companies had margins that were three times higher than companies with low engagement scores."

There will be many, including Adams, who acknowledge that some of this is kind of "squishy" and really difficult to measure, but I like the three "Es". At least over the course of my career I've noticed that when people are happy, they tend to perform better.

In an article she wrote for CNN Money, Linda Mignone suggests, "Aside from it sounding sensible, recent studies have demonstrated that the happier a worker is, the more productive they will be on the job. While an employee may appear engaged in their work, they may not be as effective as they could be if they were happy."

Knowing this should help us better lead and engage the people we work with on project teams. "People who are happy at work put in far more effort, work longer hours, and are more productive than those who aren’t," continues Mignone. "They remain at their jobs twice as long and they work 25% more time than an unhappy employee works."

If that is truly the case, it appears that creating an environment where people are happy could be a very good strategy for increasing profitability in an economic environment where organizations are trying to squeeze every little bit of productivity they can out of people.

I think there is a relationship between happiness and engagement. In my experience, most people have a real desire (dare I say need) to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Modern Survey spoke to 1,000 working adults, releasing a report titled, Employee Engagement in the U.S. Workforce. You might find it interesting to know that those folks who could answer the question, "Does your company have a clear set of values that people know about and understand?" are 17 times more likely to be fully engaged than those who answered "no". I suggest that they are a lot happier too.

It seems simple enough. Make sure everyone is aware of the value of their contributions. Maybe it’s even too simple. However I’m convinced that it’s the first step to a happy and engaged workforce.

Maybe we should be asking our project teams the same kinds of questions asked by Modern Survey to determine how our project teams feel:

  1. Does your company have a clear set of values that people know and understand?
  2. Do you understand the value to your organization of the project you’re currently working on?
  3. How is this articulated to you?

Mignone suggests (and I agree), "When employees feel like they have some control over the work they are doing and when they feel like they’re making progress, they are generally happier and more productive, and these feelings are amplified when employees are part of a team. A team makes bigger, bolder, richer sound, with more layers, like an orchestra. And the richest sounds come when the team feels they are part of something big; a big idea, a vision."

My personal experience suggests that this has been true for me (and many of my colleagues over the years). What's more, happy people are less likely to jump ship for a few thousand dollars more in pay than their unhappy counterparts.

What are some of the things you are doing to create a happy working environment?

—Ty Kiisel, AtTask

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