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Making Employees Happy

Posted by admin on June 26, 2013

There has long been a debate on whether happy workers are more productive, what makes employees happy and whether employers can make employees happy.  If fact, the whole issue of happiness has generated a lot of attention in recent years as people wrestle with the meaning of work and what happiness in retirement looks like. 

Here are some of our thoughts on making employees happy:

It’s individual – What makes one employee happy won’t necessarily make the next employee happy.  For example, some employees don’t want to supervise other employees, but many companies insist that the road to advancement requires supervising and managing.  So employees who reach a certain technical expertise are promoted to supervisor, a role in which they are not happy and in which they often make their employees less-than-happy.   Enlightened companies understand this pitfall and give employees with strong technical skills an opportunity to advance without having to supervise others.  This makes the expert happy in their job and gives opportunities to those who have a strong ability to coach and mentor others, making those people and their employees happy.

Hire the “right” people – No matter how great the employees you hire, they have to fit into the culture and structure of the company.  If the company is dedicated to a team environment, new employees who’ve been lone-wolf superstars in their past roles will have a tough time adjusting.  They won’t be happy being part of a team and sharing credit for improvements.  Or they’ll want to dominate the team to make sure they get credit.  Not only will they be unhappy, but also they will cause a team that worked well together to become dysfunctional.  Some companies with self-managing teams have even given the team the “right” to fire employees that are negatively impacting the team. 

It’s more than just money - We‘ve all had the feeling that we would be happier if we made more money for the job we performed.  And to some extent this is true because we equate the perceived value of our efforts with the money we make.  But the money effect is generally a short-term motivator.  A colleague of ours used to say that the effect of a raise lasted about two paychecks.  At that point the new salary becomes expected and we adjust our thinking and spending to the new salary.  If you truly don’t like what you’re doing 40 to 60 hours a week, it’ll take a lot of money to make it bearable. 

Thinking and happiness – Most employees are happy contributing their expertise and experience to the company.  They get psychic rewards from using their “smarts” to resolve issues.  It is up to the company to provide the processes and systems to harness this thinking so employees can deliver value to the company.  If the effort required to contribute is punishing for employees, they won’t contribute or they’ll do the bare minimum when required.  But companies that institute common processes for raising and addressing issues, and rewarding employees for resolving issues often find these actions add greatly to employee satisfaction and happiness.

Like most things in life, happiness is in the eye of the beholder.  Companies should ask employees what would make their work more enjoyable.  This could be done in a survey or one-on-one interviews.  Management might be surprised by the answers, some of which will cost the company little or no money.