We have all heard the saying “Happy wife, happy life.” The saying implies that if a wife is happy in her marriage, so will their significant other, which ultimately leads to a happy life. It makes sense, and most would agree that there is certainly some truth to the saying. This saying can also be applied in the workplace. “Happy employees, happy workplace”. Meaning, if employees are happy at work, this will translate to your customers, which ultimately leads to increased sales and profitability. The challenge is figuring out exactly how leaders can make their employees happy.
Although many leaders consider merit increases and bonuses as the ultimate form of rewards and recognition, the reality is that most employees are also looking for timely recognition for their efforts.
Unfortunately, there is not one specific thing employers can do to make employees happy. The reality is that to make employees feel fulfilled, it takes effort. Leaders need to understand their employees’ needs and wants, then balance that with business realities (e.g., time, money, and manpower). Although there is a myriad of factors that will determine an employee’s overall happiness with their company, the following are the five basic elements that all leaders need to cultivate to create a happy and engaged workplace:
1. Foster a healthy culture: Culture is the shared beliefs, behaviors, and values that affect the way employees interact with each other and their customers. Every company has a culture whether they realize it or not. The question is whether that culture aligns with the company’s business strategy and whether that culture is effective in driving the desired results. Many studies have been conducted on the impact culture has on an organization, and executives overwhelmingly have said that a healthy culture is essential to company success. Company culture influences productivity, profitability, and overall value, and it must be nimble enough to change with the times. Leaders play a critical role in fostering a healthy work culture and do so by reinforcing it with their words and actions.
2. Live and promote your values: Successful organizations with high-performing cultures are normally those that have taken the time to define who they are and what they believe in. These values should be and must be understood by everyone in the organization and consistently promoted by leaders. Company values only mean something to employees if their leaders are role modeling these values and insisting that their employees are doing so as well. Simply put, leaders’ actions must promote their company values.
3. Communicate openly and honestly: Communicating effectively is one of the single greatest challenges that most companies need to contend with on a constant basis. Questions such as what to communicate and how often to communicate are usually at the top of the list. To effectively engage employees and foster an environment of inclusion, leaders must be prepared and capable of communicating both good and not-so-good messages. When it comes to sharing not-so-good information, you will typically find that employees may not be happy with what leaders have to say but will appreciate the transparency, no matter how unpleasant it might be. Another important aspect of open and honest communication is a leader’s ability to genuinely listen. Seek to understand your employees’ point of view and the true meaning behind what they are saying. Leaders should be aware that it’s not always easy for employees to speak freely with their supervisors and understand that how they (the leader) respond to what an employee has to say will ultimately lead to the level of confidence they may have in sharing issues and concerns. When leaders communicate and listen effectively, employees typically will feel valued and have a higher degree of trust in their leader and the organization.
4. Take time to reward and recognize: There are all types of rewards and recognition. Although many leaders consider merit increases and bonuses as the ultimate form of rewards and recognition, the reality is that most employees are also looking for timely recognition for their efforts. Receiving a “Meets Expectation” on the annual review is nice but receiving a personalized recognition for addressing a serious customer concern or landing a new account might have a completely different impact if done in a timely manner. To reward and recognize effectively, leaders must take the time to figure out their employees’ preferred method of recognition. Some like to be recognized on a one-on-one basis and some prefer public recognition. Take the time to understand your employees needs and make the recognition meaningful. Leaders that effectively reward and recognize their employees will typically see a higher degree of engagement, enthusiasm, and productivity from them.
5. Stay positive: Leaders influence the behaviors of their teams. Their attitude towards people, difficult circumstances, and change will have a direct impact on employee attitudes. Negativity depletes enthusiasm and can induce unneeded stress. Positive leadership on the other hand can help inspire and motivate employees to accomplish a goal or meet a deadline. It also influences productivity and job satisfaction while reducing stress. Leadership is not easy and in certain circumstance negativity may be all around you but choose to be different — stay positive and observe the difference it will make on your team and your work environment.
These five basic elements of leadership might seem elementary, but the reality is that most organizations struggle to collectively implement and manage them on a consistent basis. Leaders should regularly assess themselves and their organization. How well they rank on these elements will help determine what changes must be made to lead in a manner that will foster a much healthier and more productive workplace. Your employees will be happier, and your workplace will thrive.
Julio Garcia, SPHR, is director of human resources at Cal-Tex Protective Coatings, Inc.