On a scale of one to 10, how happy are the employees in your organization?
If your answer is “seven” then you’re right in line with the answer given by most CEOs.
“Seven is an interesting number,” says Kris Boesch, an workplace culture expert. “It’s representative of ‘we’re doing okay, not great’ or ‘I really don’t know.’ You’re confident that no one is going to go postal. Overall you have a good group of people who get along well enough. There are some areas that could use improvement. It’s a ‘safe’ number.”
But Boesch says no one should be thrilled with such an assessment, because when employees are happier, the bottom line is healthier.
Further, don’t try to defend your culture to Boesch by claiming that your workers are “satisfied” or “engaged.”
“That’s a pretty low bar to try and hit. Would you be thrilled to say that your clients are ‘satisfied’? And what is engaged? I don’t really know what that looks or feels like,” she says. “But I do know what happy looks like.”
Using 1,000 hours of research with a team from the industrial organizational psychology department at Colorado State University, Boesch identified eight critical happiness factors, such as the employees having a positive perception of the supervisor, workers believing their work is important in the organization and team members feeling they have freedom in their work.
What may surprise some companies, however, is what did not fall into those happiness factors: compensation, benefits and perks.
“I think there’s an obvious tendency to go to those things like compensation and benefits to increase happiness, but you’ll find that other research had similar outcomes,” she says. “It’s the obvious fix, but not the best one.”
Boesch, author of “Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace,” says that more employers would work to boost employee happiness if they understood how it affects their bottom line.
Specifically, a worker with an annual salary of $40,000 can cost a company $387,000 because an unhappy worker provides poor customer service, spreads negativity and eventually leaves, which costs the company in terms of recruitment and training of a new employee, she says.
On the other hand, that same employee who is happy can boost the bottom line by $21,300 because of 12% greater productivity than the average worker and 41% less absences that unhappy workers, she says.
Boesch says the biggest mistake companies make right now is trying to “throw money” at employees to make them happier, when what is really needed is an assessment of the emotional health of the workforce.
“It is really hard right now because people are really divided in this country. I think it’s important for leaders to remind their teams of the common ground they share. We all care about our families, for example,” she says. “We need to talk about what unifies us.”
One of the ways that companies can help unify workers – especially remote workers or teams in far-flung locations – is by using technology.
“Technology has the potential to enhance anything when used right,” she says. “Anything that helps us communicate better gets a high five.”
For example, greater employee happiness results when leaders share their own humanity – their concerns or fears or dreams – with teams. That may only be possible through technology in some cases, and letting workers hear directly from leaders “creates a level of intimacy” that can lead to a workforce is that feels more connected, she says.
Boesch says some other ways to create greater worker happiness includes:
Are you doing everything it takes to maintain a happy workforce?