You likely know that people don't perform as well when they're feeling disengaged or distracted, but you may not realize how pervasive a problem this is in today's workplace. How happy are your employees? Is employee happiness at a low or a high? The latest Gallup poll (collected from over 80,000 workers) on employee engagement tells a dismal story. In 2015, only 32 percent of workers say they're "engaged" at their jobs. Over 50 percent say they're "not engaged," while another 17 percent state that they are "actively disengaged." Furthermore, this data has shown no significant change since Gallup first started this annual poll in 2000, so the problem is persistent.
Why employee engagement matters
When you go to the office each morning, of course you hope that your workers are feeling energized because it makes the office environment a better place for everyone. But how does employee happiness translate into actual performance and productivity? The numbers are clear; companies with engaged workers outperform other companies by 202 percent. Research published by the Academy of Management Perspectives finds that "stronger emotional ties to the organization serve to significantly lessen the likelihood that employees would leave." Furthermore, the cost of replacing an entry-level worker is 30 to 50 percent of their salary. This expense increases as the position being filled becomes more specialized. Replacing top workers can cost a staggering 400 percent of their annual salary. And these statistics don't even begin to address the burnout felt by the coworkers shouldering the extra burden after a colleague leaves the company.
Employee happiness begins with you
As a manager, you’re not responsible for every emotion your employees feel but your actions have a profound effect on your team. Research by Gallup notes that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee motivation levels. Furthermore, a survey of over 7,000 workers found that one in two had left a job to get away from a specific manager. Given the power you have in improving employee happiness, what can you do to make your company a great place to work?
Be engaged yourself
For starters, evaluate your own personal engagement. Gallup's State of the American Manager report determined that only about 35 percent of supervisors and HR managers are themselves engaged, and this disaffection has expensive outcomes. The cost of managers who report that they're "not engaged" is estimated to be $77 billion to $96 billion annually, while the cost of the additional 14 percent who are "actively disengaged" is more than $300 billion per year. On a positive note, the fact that you're reading and thinking about employee recognition suggests that you're in the minority of managers attempting to make improvements.
People feel a deeper commitment to their work when they have some power over how things are done. You can affect your workers' sense of empowerment and improve their morale in a wide variety of ways:
- Give them control over their schedules, allowing them to shift their start times or work remotely from home for part of the week. If workers have the chance to fulfill their outside obligations, they'll feel less stressed and distracted when they're on the job.
- Communicate the ways in which each person's work matters to the company. Employees will make a greater effort if they understand how their daily contribution furthers the ultimate company goals.
- Offer the opportunity for professional development, including coaching/mentorship programs. Your workers will feel a greater commitment to your organization if they know you have their long-term well-being in mind.
- Seek suggestions and feedback. Let every worker, regardless of salary level, have a say in how things are done.
Offer rewards and recognition
Everyone should have their efforts recognized, regardless of age or the type of work they're undertaking. Being recognized leads to a greater commitment to the work itself, as well as a deeper sense of personal identification within an organization. Employee rewards and recognition can be expressed in a variety of forms, and often the non-monetary forms can be the most meaningful. A few words of gratitude or appreciation from co-workers can do wonders for the sense of teamwork, and a supervisor's acknowledgment can help a worker feel that their effort was worthwhile. 48% of employees stated that management's recognition of employee job performance, whether through feedback, incentives, or rewards, was "very important." For these reasons, a system used to facilitate employee appreciation is required for any company striving to be successful in today's marketplace. Besides, giving employee rewards will make your job more enjoyable as well.
How happy are your employees?
As you take steps to foster employee happiness, it's necessary to be able to measure success. You may be able to sense the overall mood of your workers, but you need something more than your own intuition -- something tangible This is where the HR technology known as pulse surveys come in handy. A pulse survey is a one-click response (using a scale of images that represent sadness to happiness) that employees can submit anonymously each day, giving a quick indicator of how they're feeling. This daily information provides an immediate snapshot of both your company's and immediate team's well-being as well as displaying the trend of happiness levels over time. The anonymity of the survey facilitates honesty, and when a company shares the results of the pulse survey, it creates an environment of transparency and gives rise to important conversations.
The technology of happiness
As HR tech becomes more sophisticated, it integrates with some of our basic social needs. Employee recognition best practices and pulse surveys are effective methods for strengthening organizations and building employee success.
For a deeper dive into this topic, download our eBook The Case for Employee Recognition.