A typical business owner’s to-do list is epic in length, scope, and overall ability to induce record-setting headaches. Consequently, rare is the business owner who has time to contemplate whether or not his/her employees are happy. What many business owners don’t realize, however, is that this would be time very well spent.
Studies back this up. Recent research from the University of Warwick, for example, found that happy employees work harder. In fact, they were 12 percent more productive then their disgruntled counterparts. Other studies have found a direct connection between happy employees and higher profits. A study conducted by the Jackson Organization concluded, “Companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t. When looking at Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For,’ stock prices rose an average of 14% per year, compared to 6% for the overall market.” Similar study findings were reported by Bright Horizons, which noted a clear correlation between employee happiness and productivity, with both positively affecting the bottom line.
In short, it’s to the benefit of business owners to have happy employees. And, March 20 – which the United Nations has declared as the International Day of Happiness – is an ideal time to assess into which category your workforce falls: happy or sad.
What to Look for
While there isn’t any foolproof set of metrics to precisely gauge employee happiness, following is a smorgasbord of signs that a worker maybe dissatisfied:
- Taking sick days – Calling in sick frequently, when there’s no evidence of a serious illness.
- Abusing time – Arriving late, stretching breaks, but leaving precisely at quitting time.
- Declining performance – Missing deadlines, plummeting productivity, and generally performing at a declining level.
- Withdrawing – Isolating himself/herself from coworkers and essentially behaving like a loner.
- Having a short fuse – Displaying uncharacteristic impatience, irritability, and anger.
- Making private calls – Using work hours to accept or make private calls, often speaking in hushed tones while retreating to an unoccupied office space.
- Leveraging LinkedIn – Posting an updated profile along with a slew of new endorsements.
- Receiving complaints – An unhappy employee’s behavior generally does not go unnoticed by those around him/her. If coworkers and/or customers start voicing complaints, it’s time to pay attention.
What to do
If it’s become clear that you have an unhappy employee on your hands – and if you’d prefer that this person doesn’t jump ship – then consider taking these steps:
- Schedule a private talk – Don’t make the mistake of discussing the employee’s issues in front of coworkers. Instead, talk in private – preferably at a time and place that won’t draw the attention of other employees.
- Be a good listener – The purpose of this conversation is – not to grill the employee – but, rather, to truly listen to the reasons for his/her unhappiness. Encourage the individual to talk openly by making it clear that he/she will not be penalized for speaking candidly.
- Respond to issues – If the employee attributes his/her unhappiness to an unmanageable workload, then reduce said workload – at least temporarily – until he/she can catch-up. Or, if the employee’s dissatisfaction stems from feeling that he/she doesn’t have the skill set needed to accomplish assigned tasks, provide whatever training will shore up his/her skill set.
- Share positive observations – Dissatisfied employees often feel unappreciated, so proactively express the assets that this individual brings to the company, as well as the areas in which he/she excels.