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A 10-step ‘prescription’ to create a happier workforce

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in HR Management,Human Resources

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 positive workplace culture can 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-­management 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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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jillian Miner February 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

This is a great article that highlights the importance of culture in the workplace. Here at Onboardly, we use an employee feedback platform called 15Five (15Five.com). We have found it works very well for us, as it only takes us 15 minutes to complete each week and allows us to celebrate wins, share challenges, and identify problems before they escalate. This way, we are always communicating with our team leaders, allowing them to be aware of the pulse of their team. Every company should have a type of employee feedback system to ensure their employees are happy and have a safe platform where they can voice their opinions.


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