The Six Secrets to Building Happier Teams

The Six Secrets to Building Happier Teams

Robert Half commissioned an independent research company to conduct an online survey of more than 2000 Australian employees about their happiness levels in the workplace. Participants from a range of industries and demographics were asked questions about how happy they are at work and what they attribute that happiness to.

Why the focus on happiness? Robert Half Senior Managing Director David Jones said the reason is that most business leaders witness and acknowledge that workplace happiness has a tangible impact on productivity and profitability.

“Happy employees tend to be more engaged, loyal, creative and productive than their less-satisfied counterparts. Creating a positive culture that engages employees and boosts satisfaction levels, enables companies to remain competitive and directly impacts the bottom line,” he says.

The link between happiness and performance is clear, however, the challenge for many organisations is learning how to boost happiness levels to take full advantage of these benefits.

The research offers a number of interesting insights for business leaders; Australia wide the top three drivers for employee happiness are: being treated with fairness and respect, pride in their organisation and a sense of accomplishment from their work.

The research also shows that the happiest employees work in smaller companies, with between 1-9 and 25-99 employees. Conversely people working in organisations with 10,000 or more employees had the lowest happiness scores at just 58 out of a possible 100. The research also showed that older employees (over 55 years) tend to be the happiest, most interested and least stressed in their jobs. Employees aged 34-54 were the least happy closely followed by employees aged 18-34 who also score lowest on interest and highest on stress.

While the study showed that overall happiness is related to a combination of variables, unique to each individual, there are six factors which can contribute:

1. Hiring people who are the right fit for the job and company
Take the time to hire people who are a good fit for the team. This requires recruiters to paint a clear picture of the role, the organisational culture, and expectations. Mr Jones from Robert Half says the recruitment process sets the stage for both employee and employer happiness:

“Practice diligence in each step of the hiring process — from crafting detailed job postings to conducting in-depth interviews, skills testing candidates, thoroughly checking references and giving them an opportunity to meet different people within the company,” he says.

2. Ensuring employees have a sense of empowerment
Empowering staff to make decisions independently or with minimal direction boosts employee happiness by helping staff develop skills, making them feel more invested, building confidence and providing opportunities for staff to question the status quo and suggest new ideas. Mr Jones says organisations seeking to better empower staff need to create a culture where team members are encouraged to stretch their problem solving skills by taking strategic risks and having the opportunity to contribute creative ideas.

“But also make it known that you are available to offer support and guidance so that they don’t find themselves floundering alone,” he says.

3.Showing appreciation
Saying thank you sincerely and often is one of the most cost effective strategies for building staff loyalty and happiness. Effective praise requires managers to express gratitude for a particular effort made in a timely fashion. It’s important to thank people on an individual level as well to show appreciation for the entire team.

4. Offer interesting and meaningful work
Employees who believe the work they do is worthwhile are 2.4 times more likely to be happy than those who feel the job they do is ‘just work’. The study showed that a sense of accomplishment is one of the top drivers of happiness in Australia, alongside pride and being treated with fairness and respect.

To achieve happiness in this domain employees need a clear understanding of why their work is important and how the tasks they complete feed into the overall picture.  Employees should also be given the chance to immerse themselves in uninterrupted in-depth projects or tasks. Completion of these detailed tasks contributes to a great sense of fulfillment and happiness.

5. Cultivate a sense of fairness
The research showed that fairness is a powerful driver of happiness and that instances of unfairness can very quickly turn employees off their company. Fairness is particularly important to women who rated it as the strongest determinant of happiness (for men it was number four).

Managers can improve fairness in the workplace by striving to be transparent in decision making and providing a forum for employees to speak up when they feel a sense of inequality about something.

6. Foster positive workplace relationships
Building and maintaining healthy and supportive workplace relationships is an important source of happiness for employees and may help them manage stress and productivity levels.

Managers can work to promote a positive workplace culture by creating opportunities for employees to forge and strengthen bonds with their colleagues, both within their team and within the wider organisation.

Learn more about happiness in the workplace by reading the Robert Half report.