7 key principles of employee happiness

Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.

Part of being concerned about employees as holistic beings is recognising that emotional wellness and happiness are essential to workplace productivity, team cohesion and a working environment that inspires rather than draining staff.

Companies can contribute to their employees’ emotional wellbeing by following seven key principles. The first key is to encourage laughter. The Action for Happiness campaign confirms that laughter has serious benefits. It energises us, releases happy endorphins, increases enthusiasm and impacts every part of us. In many ways it is the ultimate drug, with no harmful side-effects.

Research has shown that creativity increases happiness by contributing to an upward spiral of positive emotions. This is illustrated by the current trend for adult colouring pages designed to relax and destress. Whether you believe in this colouring trend or not, there is no doubt that expressing ourselves creatively is a release and contributes to mental health. This aligns well with the need for stress management, which is essential to happiness. Whether you manage your stress through creativity, exercise or an alternate hobby, conscious stress busting practices should be adopted.

The third key allows for learning. A happy mind is a challenged mind, a mind that faces obstacles and overcomes them, one that is constantly fed with information and plied with knowledge. Additionally, employees that are encouraged to learn by their employers often feel valued, with an understanding that their employers believe them to be an asset to invest in.

Through the recognition of self and others true self-worth can be achieved, boosting confidence and emotional security. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs dictates the need for self-esteem and self-respect. Employers can bolster employee self-esteem by demonstrating the recognition of their abilities, their strengths and their achievements. Similarly, happiness can be encouraged in the workplace when colleagues support each other and express gratitude for assistance while celebrating each other’s accomplishments. This lends itself to positive team work.

The last key to employee happiness is embracing the concept of giving back. According to ‘The Emotional Life’, altruism in all its forms, including kindness, generosity, compassion, volunteering, and donating money, has the potential to reward the giver as much or more than the recipient.

The reality is that unhappy employees are unproductive, don’t work well with their colleagues (unless it’s to unite against the injustices of their employment) and will probably damage customer relations with a less than stellar attitude. Developing a happy workforce, that feels appreciated and valued, is the precursor to longevity and success.

Liane McGowan is the work guru and founder of Happy Monday CC and Anne Mulcahy is the former Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of Xerox.

Why resilient leaders need chase growth

Despite some of the harshest economic and business conditions being felt for some time now, a survey has revealed that many of SA’s top industry leaders are still positive about the future, and that they display a resilience that will be critical for keeping businesses moving forward in the coming year. The survey, conducted by Jack Hammer, asked executives and managers in various sectors about their expectations for bonuses, increases and business growth in the new year.

There is a common assumption that with the markets being as challenging as they are, and with all the data on low business confidence, it will be doom and gloom all round.

However our most recent survey shows that while it is certainly not business as usual, executives and middle managers still have their eye on growth and opportunity. This is reflected both in the assessment of their personal career circumstances, as well as their commercial sentiments for the coming year.

The survey polled top managers and executives from the mining, construction, industrial, retail, FMCG, manufacturing and oil and gas sectors. Respondents included directors of finance, supply chain heads, country and production managers, chief procurement officers, supply chain directors, African regional managers, operations directors and group financial accountants, among others.

Findings from the survey reveal that:

• 36% of respondents were positive (lots of opportunity and growth potential) about the year ahead, with another 36% feeling somewhat positive (solid but tough environment). Only 28% expressed a negative sentiment, with little hope for growth;

• 71% of respondents expected at least an inflation-linked salary increase, with 21% expecting an above-inflation increase and only 28% expecting no increase at all;

• 50% of respondents expected to receive bonuses in line with or more than previous years (executives have greater expectations of receiving bonuses this year than middle managers: 71% of execs vs 29% of middle managers); and

• 64% of respondents said that if their bonuses were below expectations, this would influence their career decisions and potentially a decision to start looking elsewhere.

It is worth noting that this survey polled some of the hardest-hit industry sectors in the country.

The findings should also act as a warning to companies about the importance of looking after their top talent, despite needing to watch the bottom line more closely than ever before.

What this survey made clear, is that especially top leaders in the executive space would consider alternative career options should their bonuses and increases not be satisfactory. Even in difficult times, there remains a limited pool of suitably experienced and qualified leaders at this level, and they are well aware of their value in the marketplace.

In terms of the outlook for the year ahead, she says that at management and executive levels, there remained a drive towards looking for growth opportunities no matter what.

The fact is that while GDP figures are low, it is the endeavour of leaders who have the drive and vision to push through the mud that will keep organisations moving forward and hopefully growing, regardless of macro-economic issues.

It is therefore imperative that companies retain their key leaders and executives. And this means that even if the coffers are low, they need to ensure satisfactory bonuses and at least inflationary related increases. Not looking after your senior teams could turn out to be a case of penny-wise, pound-foolisht.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat is the CEO of Jack Hammer.

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