By Les Kertay
The best employees love their jobs, consistently give all they can, have good relationships with co-workers, find their work meaningful and leave work each day with a sense of accomplishment.
Too bad there aren’t more workers like that. In fact, most employees feel stressed, doubtful about job security and less invested in their companies and careers. You can and should do something about it.
The happiness of your organization’s employees is an important driver of workplace productivity. A recent Healthways Gallup Well-Being Index study showed a direct connection between well-being and employee performance. Employees with low “well-being” were seven times more likely to be absent from work, twice as likely to give themselves low performance ratings and seven times more likely to look for a new job.
The ‘happy worker prescription’
A positivecan reverse negative trends and actually promote happiness among staff. The key tenets of what I call the happy worker prescription: Invest in employees’ relationships with managers. Celebrate strengths. Build a culture of positivity. Here’s how to do it:
1. Help managers understand that employee happiness affects productivity and helps keep your workforce fully engaged and productive.
2. Hire happy people. The strongest absence-program is one that emphasizes the importance of hiring the right people and then investing in them to help them be their best at work. Taking this approach will help you manage workplace issues before they translate into absences.
3. Invest in managers’ emotional intelligence. Train managers to identify and assess emotions and create a positive environment for employees. Help managers learn to maximize individual and team strengths.
4. Provide recognition in ways employees value most. Not every worker wants public acknowledgment. It is surprising how few managers understand that. Don’t know an employee’s preference? Ask.
5. Provide opportunities for employees to socialize, and encourage it. The social aspects of work are key ingredients for workplace happiness. Encourage direct communication. Make a phone call instead of sending an email. Speak face-to-face instead of calling.
6. Provide benefits that are important to your employees and enhance their financial security. Emphasize the value of benefits such as disability insurance and EAP services. Employees who understand their benefits feel appreciated and more secure, which helps minimize stress and improve productivity.
7. Address performance issues directly, starting with the positive. Always discuss what went well first. If you must give corrective feedback, avoid the word “but,” which negates all that came before it.
8. Listen without judgment when individuals or the team seems stressed. Use referrals to EAPs or other services to help them manage personal issues or stress.
9. If you do something wrong, apologize. Accepting accountability and settling disputes through direct communication is almost always best. As an HR pro, you can help mediate conflicts.
10. Express interest in staff well-being, including when an employee misses work. You don’t have to ask about private health information in order to say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” When employees need to be out of work for extended periods, call and tell them they are missed. Workers who feel valued are less likely to be afraid to return to work, and are more likely to return to work sooner and be more energized upon their return.
Psychologist Les Kertay is chief medical officer in the Group Protection area of Lincoln Financial Group. His expertise is in the arena of mind-body health, including disability medicine, chronic pain and health behaviors. He is a consultant on strategies for managing workplace absence. Email him at Les.Kertay@LFG.com. This article is based on Lincoln Financial Group’s white paper “Happiness and the Bottom Line: The Happy Worker Prescription.”
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