Fortunately or unfortunately, employee engagement is a hot topic. Don’t get me wrong, engagement is important. There’s a proven link between engagement, productivity and profits. Companies should want to have engaged employees.
It’s virtually impossible to have an engaged employee who isn’t happy. So step one in the engagement formula should be creating happiness at work. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s not realistic. But it’s not unreasonable to strive for more happy days than not happy days.
As an employee, I should be able to tell my employer “With rare exception, I’m happy coming to work.”
The question becomes, what does a company need to do in order to achieve happiness at work? That’s the ultimate philosophical question. You could start by asking people:
Name one thing that makes you happy about working here.
It might sound hokey but think of the list you would have:
Things your company should keep doing. You might think it's the amazing free lunch they get every Thursday but collectively every employee is happy and excited about their 401(k) match and profit sharing. Don't assume.
Reasons to tell job applicants and candidates. Okay, let's elaborate on not just "telling" them during an interview. When people talk about the war on talent, it's because today's job applicants are super savvy about where they choose to work. Let's talk about Glassdoor for a hot minute. This can really work in your favor to elevate your company brand as employer of choice when it comes to engagement and employee happiness. Candidates, current and previous employees tell the world what you're doing right and why other people should (or shouldn't) come work for you. So if you're getting awesome feedback about what makes employees happy, tell your employees to post about it.
Things to put on various sites/platforms. Whatever platform, site or social media space you're in: Glassdoor, company career site, LinkedIn company page, Instagram or Facebook page. You can put it out there. If your employees are excited that everyone volunteers four times a year for non-profits, feed that culture by posting pictures, blogging and posting about it.
I also wonder if there would be any surprises. Things companies didn’t realize that employees liked as well as things that didn’t show up on the list. I wonder if something doesn’t show up, should a company consider doing away with it?
When was the last time someone asked “What makes you happy at work?” Do you know the answer?
P.S. One thing to add when I discussed this same concept with a recent client: Companies should be prepared to either 1) make the suggested change or 2) tell employees why they won’t. Otherwise it could come across as an empty gesture.