How to Make Happy Employees

How different would things be if most people were really happy with their work, actively involved in a positive and joyful pursuit? 

Once the basics of safety, civility, and fair wages are met, what matters most?  

Studies say that a sense of purpose in the workplace contributes twice as much to an individual’s job satisfaction as the runner-up, which is having a high-quality manager. Experts these days are saying that the good life is not a life of leisure, but rather one filled with meaning and striving toward a goal, it has been proven through scientific research that we need a sense of purpose to become engaged and stay inspired every day. 

Experts also say that there are some clear patterns across the globe when it comes to drivers of happiness and satisfaction. If these drivers are applied outside the workplace as well as inside, people consider themselves in the best possible scenario.  People who say they have a sense of purpose are more likely to participate in their community, both at work and in their personal lives.  Scientists say that these individuals have higher “quality of life” scores when tested. They are healthier, have fewer accidents and maintain perspective. They stay out of debt, laugh more and have vibrant relationships. They are, quite simply, happier. 

When an employer’s values resonate personally for employees, another benefit emerges: happy, engaged workers who tend to focus on their tasks instead of complaining about them. They don’t waste time and energy avoiding their job and undermining company goals. They are more comfortable associating themselves with their organization.  They can easily explain to a friend or a child why they do what they do.  

While this is found to be the case in 90% of employees tested, the 10% who do not see an overall purpose in their lives are “most concerning” numbers. 

According to Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute, in Copenhagen, Denmark, “It’s worrying for two reasons.  One, it’s a strong statement to say I don’t see a purpose with my life.  To me that is quite alarming.  Second, I suspect that the actual number is even higher!  Remember, this is a survey, and I think there is some stigma attached to admitting you do not see a purpose in your life.” 

Even with the 10% troubling the experts, there is good news.  Shared characteristics for the people who do see a purpose or meaning with their lives lead them to be much more inclined to take part in community work.  Studies indicate that around 50% of happy, engaged employees participate in volunteer activities and this participation is a very good indicator of overall happiness. 

It’s a powerful cycle. 

So how can business leaders leverage the idea of purpose to boost the engagement of their people at work?   

Is this a difficult challenge, or is it simply common sense? 

“Start with why,” Wiking advises. “Make it clearer, what the overall purpose of the organization is.  How are we making the world a better place?  Clarify for the individual how he or she is helping in accomplishing that goal.”

Once you have established the organization’s goals, and the employee’s role in achieving those goals, try establishing a community outreach or similar volunteer opportunity.  The goal here would be to see both massive participation, along with even higher levels of employee happiness. 

Happy employees will ultimately do more for their employers.