With frequent travels to many different types of organizations, there's one thing I notice first when walking the hallways, presenting at meetings, or being greeted by the receptionist. That's the level of employee happiness and general satisfaction. I refer to this internal corporate barometer as an organization's "Happiness Index."
The Happiness Index is directly linked to employee engagement, which sits center stage in the world of work right now -- and for good reason. Research has repeatedly shown that engaged employees are not only better producers, but they're also more committed to the organization, achieve better business outcomes, and deliver superior levels of customer satisfaction. Since the top reason that people join or leave an organization is the relationship they have with their direct manager, leadership has a significant opportunity to impact not only employee engagement and satisfaction, but also the company's bottom-line performance. That's why I consider the Happiness Index to be an indirect path to an organization's profitability, reputation, and long-term success.
Some industries stand out as being lower on the Happiness Index than others. A recent article in Fortune noted that tech workers are less happy than workers in other sectors in nearly every category surveyed. The findings were based on a new study from Tiny Pulse, which found that the reasons behind this malaise include lack of opportunities for professional growth, lack of recognition for their work, and lack of high-quality relationships with their coworkers. While the technology industry was called out, it is not alone in encountering this challenge. In fact, other research has shown a growing trend of disengaged and dissatisfied workers across many business sectors.
With this problem so pervasive, when I see someone who is visibly engaged--or who says they love working at their company and feel that they are part of its mission--I stop and ask them why. Much of the feedback I receive points back to the following five basic leadership tenets, which are important for every leader and manager to practice in their day-to-day interactions with their teams:
- Offer opportunities for continuous growth. What truly motivates most employees is to continue learning through cross-functional experiences, observing others outside their division and having opportunities beyond their day-to-day job or office. Such experiences give people a chance to learn from others, while broadening their perspective on how to expand their skills or improve the business. A great example of how to provide growth opportunities is through sponsorship. Expose your top talent to projects that are visible to senior leaders, have them present information at your next board meeting, or let them connect with your network to gain a broader understanding of the business. In short, give them tools to help them succeed at their specialties, and offer a less rigid work environment that facilitates stretch opportunities and new experiences.
Do you know your team's or organization's Happiness Index? If not, walk the hallways and ask people, "Do you love working here? If so, why -- and if not, why not?" Following the five tenets above may help boost a languishing Happiness Index -- and make you a better leader in the process.