HR is as Happy as the Least Happy Employee

Is a happy employee superior to a melancholy one? Well, if all the studies are to be believed—and there are many on the topic—the answer is a resounding yes.

A happier employee is more engaged, and thus has a greater sense of purpose, energy to accomplish goals, confidence in his or her ability to do the job, and general enthusiasm for the day. This, in turn, translates into higher profit margins, improved customer retention rates, and even reduced staff turnover for your company.

The question becomes, what can human resources do to make employees happy?

Talk to Them

If your employees are unhappy, it’s important to figure out the root cause of the distress. It’s not an easy conversation to have for either party.

When an employee gives an answer—even if it’s something that is tough to hear—state that you appreciate his or her willingness to share feedback. From then on, you’ll want to be transparent about the feedback—if warranted, ask other employees if they are also experiencing the same hardship.

Then, take the issue up the chain of command to see if human resources can take steps to address it. If the issue cannot be resolved, see what can be done to make the situation more tolerable. Throughout the resolution process, be open and honest with your employees. Transparency will help you win points, even if the solution falls short of a 100% fix.

Show Them Their Part in the Puzzle

Not knowing how they fit into the bigger picture can make it difficult for employees to draw meaning from their work, let alone engage in and be happy with it.

Human resources needs to take the time to explain how each employee factors into the overall success of the company and show employees the value of their work.

This should be done during onboarding, review times and when there are promotions or significant changes in the overall direction or structure of the company. When human resources keeps them in the loop, employees better understand their roles and feel more connected to the company and engaged in its goals for future success.

Recognize Achievements

While it’s always nice to be able to award a monetary bonus for a job well done, that simply isn’t feasible for many employers. However, human resources can show the company’s appreciation— with nary a penny spent—by announcing an employee’s extra effort, big sale, or other top-performance moment to the rest of the company in a weekly organization-wide email, a newsletter post, a monthly employee recognition program, or even just an informal announcement at the end of the workday. Employee appreciation pays off down the line with continued success and deeper engagement.

Keep it Productive

A productive work environment that makes good use of available space, maximizes natural light, allows for employees to sit safely and comfortably at their desks, and includes a little greenery here and there can work wonders toward maximizing happiness in the office.

Employees should be encouraged to personalize their own space—within reason and where their job function allows—so that they can showcase their personal style and feel more at home.

It should also go without saying that a happy and productive work environment is a safe environment, where workers feel able to complete their work without jeopardizing their health.

Recognize Life Outside of Work

One of the most important facets of encouraging happiness in the work environment is recognizing that your employees have a life outside of the confines of the cubicle walls.

There are a number of small changes that HR can roll out to show employees that the company cares about their well-being, including offering work-from-home privileges, additional time off, discounts on health and wellness activities, job perk programs, or extra disability or life insurance assistance so that employees feel that their income—and families—are protected should disaster strike.

Outline Your Expectations for Now and the Future

Outlining how an employee’s job functions in the greater context of the company is important, but it’s equally important to understand what you expect from an employee in order to be successful in his or her role.

Making job performance expectations clear upfront can empower employees to take greater ownership of their tasks and think more creatively about how they can manage their roles better. Part of this discussion should include what their next career steps could entail and what they’ll need to do to climb the next rung on the career ladder.

Not sure how to go about these steps? A professional employer organization (PEO) can help—the outsourced human resource professionals can draft job descriptions, extrapolate career performance markers, and use evidence-based decision making to determine what the company’s corporate structure should look like for strategic company growth.