Many companies are looking for ways to create a happy workplace and reap the benefits of the productivity gains that come with it. Unfortunately, “happy” is a subjective and difficult to define term, especially when it comes to the workplace. While it’s certainly true that many employees describe themselves as “happy” and apply the same label to their organization, the precise meaning of this term can vary from person to person.
It’s more productive, then, to consider what strategies cultivate an engaged workplace. At a glance, a highly engaged workforce fits most people’s idea of happiness because employees have a positive attitude about their work and enjoy working within a collaborative team to achieve a shared set of goals.
Here are five tips for cultivating a more engaged (and happy) workplace:
Tip 1: Give employees flexibility
In today’s interconnected workplace, the distinctions between work and home are not as clear as they once were. While this creates concerns that work responsibilities are encroaching upon people’s private lives after they leave the office, it also allows employers to offer them a great deal of flexibility. According to Gallup, the ability to work remotely on a limited basis can significantly boost employee engagement and productivity.
Giving employees the flexibility to tend to their personal lives during the workday tends to make them happier and more engaged. Anyone who has had to take time off work to care for a sick child or help a family member knows how stressful it can be to manage a balance between work and home life. By giving people some control over their schedules, they can take care of pressing personal matters without compromising their work performance.
Tip 2: Encourage personal goals
While short term team-based goals might help to keep people engaged on a day-to-day basis, encouraging and promoting personal career goals can provide them with a greater sense of professional fulfillment. Giving employees the opportunity to grow offers rewarding challenges and helps them to become more actively engaged with their work. Ongoing coaching efforts also make people feel like their supervisors care about their development.
Personal goals help employees to orient their professional life and relationships. They can see how their career plans relate to the organization as a whole. It’s important for people to know whether or not they can continue to grow with a company. When they feel like their career is stagnating, they naturally become less engaged and might even consider searching for a new position. Employee development plans are particularly valuable in this context because they not only provide a road map for career growth, but also give employees a sense of ownership and personal investment in the plan.
Tip 3: Empower employees
Just as people like to have some control over their schedules, they also like to have control over how they work. Employees want to be included in decisions that affect them whenever possible. They also want to provide unique solutions that bring their distinctive skill sets to bear on any problem. When employees feel like they have the power to contribute constructively to creating solutions that align with an organization’s goals, they become more invested in the potential outcomes.
Perhaps most importantly, organizations should do their best to eliminate any tasks or rules that don’t directly influence productivity, sales, quality, or safety. Employees can become frustrated with rules they regard as meaningless or counterproductive. Anything that doesn’t contribute to achieving the team or organization’s goals is taking up valuable time and energy people could be devoting to more important tasks. Seeking feedback from employees themselves is also particularly helpful in creating engagement and identifying obstacles that are undermining a team’s efforts.
Tip 4: Respond to concerns and provide feedback
People want to know that their voices and opinions matter. Empowering employees to provide feedback and speak their minds is a good place to start, but the gesture won’t amount to much if they don’t feel like anyone is listening to them. Failing to take action on an issue after employees have raised concerns about it will erode trust and diminish engagement.
Feedback is especially important to Millennials, who consider it a vital aspect of their professional growth. Implementing systems to assess employees and provide fair-minded feedback can boost engagement and help them feel like the work they do matters. People who think their job is meaningful or impactful tend to be more engaged in the workplace.
Tip 5: Create connections between employees
While measurable results are obviously important for any team, the personal connections between employees are an important part of creating a happy workplace. People often spend more time with their coworkers than family and friends, so it’s important for those relationships to be strong. When employees know each other better and have the basis for a rapport, they can communicate and collaborate more effectively. When people feel comfortable in their workplace, they’re more likely to offer creative solutions.
Of course, establishing closer bonds between employees isn’t just about making productivity gains. People want to feel like their workplace is a safe and welcoming environment where they can be themselves without fear of judgment. With the workforce becoming increasingly diverse, establishing a culture of acceptance and tolerance based upon mutual respect is more important than ever.
Informal, out-of-office events can help encourage interactions between employees and establish the basis for a strong rapport. Many workplaces provide perks and amenities like pool or ping pong tables to encourage employees to socialize at work during breaks. Organizations with virtual teams need to be more deliberate about encouraging interaction between employees, but well-planned video chats or virtual get-togethers can help overcome the distance barriers that often isolate virtual workers from one another.
Cultivating engagement in the workplace not only makes employees more productive and efficient, but also has the added benefit of helping them feel valued by their organization and connected with their coworkers. By empowering employees to take control over their schedules and professional development while encouraging them to make connections with one another and express their unique qualities, organizations can create a work environment that people want to be a part of and help to succeed. While it’s not quite as simple as saying employee engagement leads to happy employees, the benefits of an engaged workforce are too significant for any company to afford to ignore.