Can people really be happy or is that just a myth? Most people have difficulty separating the concept of being happy with how much satisfaction they get from their jobs. Because of the economic uncertainties of the past several years –as well as many company’s increasing demands that current workers do more with less – there are a lot of people who are less than satisfied with their work.
According to a 2012 report from the Conference Board, workers in the US reported job satisfaction scores that were among the lowest ever recorded. Another study released that same year by the Sloan Center on Aging and Work concluded that most workers in the UK reported only “moderate satisfaction” with their jobs – at best.
With job satisfaction on the decline, there has been a renewed interest in research that looks at how to make workers happier.
Three Keys to Worker Satisfaction
According to another report issued by the Conference Board in March 2013, there are three keys to having happier workers:
- Employee Engagement – Workers are more likely to be satisfied in their work when they feel as if they are making a real contribution to the overall success of an organization. Workers who feel ignored, unvalued, or whose achievements are unrecognized tend to rate their job satisfaction low.
- Rewards and Recognition – While collecting a paycheck obviously is important to workers, it’s not the only factor that determines their happiness with their job. In fact, many companies have found that implementing a company-wide rewards and recognition program that recognizes and celebrates workers’ accomplishments, solicits their ideas on how to improve operations, and rewards and incentivizes them to perform better reaps better results to productivity and profitability than simply raising wages.
- Company Loyalty – Encouraging a company-wide culture that encourages employee loyalty is one of the most effective ways of increasing individual performance and productivity. When workers feel as if they are a valued member of a team and that their organization has well-expressed common goals, they are far more likely to be happy at work.
The Definition of Happiness
What defines employee happiness? What factors go into considering whether or not they are satisfied with their work?
The answer to that question may be changing. When asked what factors contribute to their happiness in their jobs, workers gave a variety of replies. Of course, pay and benefits ranked near the top of the list. People said they wanted to earn enough money to live comfortably and support the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.
But after those basic needs have been met, there are other things people want in order to be happy on the job. Psychologists have told us that humans tend to follow three separate and distinct pathways to happiness:
- Making a Difference – Workers are happiest when they feel as if their contributions are advancing the bigger objectives of the organization. In order to reinforce this belief, management needs to do a better job recognizing individuals for their accomplishments on a more regular basis. The occasional “atta boy” is often enough to make a worker feel as if their work is being appreciated.
- Using One’s Skill Sets –Workers say they are happiest when they can use their talents and skills on the job. They want to make unique contributions to the organization’s overall success and use their individual abilities to add value to the business. But that’s not all: They also want their supervisors and even their co-workers to value and acknowledge their contributions. To put it another way, they want to utilize their skills to make the business better.
- A Positive Corporate Culture – Nobody wants to work at a place where everybody is unhappy all the time. It’s usually up to executive management to set the tone for the rest of the operation. When bosses are negative, rank and file works will always follow suit. It’s up to the top level executives to create the appropriate company culture in which workers can thrive and succeed.
Many Happy Returns
A satisfied workforce can translate into real dollars and cents for businesses. Companies where workers have higher job satisfaction rankings also have higher sales, productivity and accuracy. Perhaps even more surprisingly, happier workers also tend to be healthier, are promoted more frequently, and have a better general outlook on their lives.
So it pays to support and promote programs that encourage employee happiness and job satisfaction. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, companies can improve worker happiness by focusing on building a happier company-wide culture, motivating employees with rewards and recognition programs, and allowing workers to utilize their unique skills to make positive contributions to the overall success of the organization.