Lord Richard Layard, the program director at the London School of Economics, is one of the first economists who actually understands the importance of correlating happiness with work.
In an interview with McKinsey & Company, he tried to answer a question that more employers should start asking - "what makes an employee happy at work?" And that is precisely the answer leaders should be looking for.
Sadly, on average, people tend not to be very fond of their jobs. They see their work as a necessity but not as something enjoyable.
For one of their studies, Udemy surveyed 1000 full-time office workers and discovered that almost half of them (43%) are bored with what they are doing. What is even more interesting is that 80% of the people surveyed consider that learning a new skill would make them more engaged, improving both their professional and personal status.
It is not very hard to see how a bored employee could turn into an unengaged employee. A rough estimation says that if you combine all the cumulative losses from unengaged employees working in the US, you get a number between $450 to $550 billion.
Now, imagine the return of investment if you would, on a continuous basis, ask employees how they are feeling and acting on the insights.
We've got to get away from happiness being thought to be a fluffy concept. Let us measure it!
- Lord Richard Layard
Lord Layard highlights an aspect that should make leaders reflect - people tend to like their job the least when working with their bosses. He also encourages employers to take their time and to get to know their team members.
To back up this statement, he uses a study by Alex Edmans that demonstrates how companies offering satisfying work environments have a 50% higher share value than others. This translates into companies who take care of their employees, such as providing them better health benefits, respecting their free days, or making sure they team up with the right people.
To get these results, the study measured employee happiness using a one-time survey. They randomly picked 250 people who were required to answer 57 questions regarding respect, fairness, and camaraderie.
Now, in a discussion we had with the CEO of Expleo's Stockholm office, he let us in on his secret why they have the lowest attrition rate within the entire organization, a global IT consultancy.
He explained that, at the Stockholm office, they ask their employees each week about the state of well-being, in stark contrast to other offices who measure these things once per year. Doing so, the management team doesn't wait for the frustration level to grow and can address issues as they appear.
By taking this idea and Lord Layard's take on the matter, we can conclude that happy employees are engaged employees.
So, want to know what makes employees happy and productive? Ask them what makes them unhappy and start working on making them happier. Because as a leader, the happiness of your people should be your main focus.
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