About half of workers in the latest World Happiness Report said they're happy with their jobs. That's the good news. However, about half are unhappy, and that's a lot of people going to work every day with their hearts not really in it. Worker satisfaction has been rising ever so slowly since 2009, after declining consistently for more than 20 years.
So, managers and business owners are having success at improving worker satisfaction. Happy workers are 12 percent more productive at work and are healthier later in life. It's vital to the health of companies and employees to try to increase the job satisfaction of the other half.
Promote Open Communication
Communicate, communicate, communicate. It can't be stressed enough how important communication is to maintaining harmonious employee relationships. This goes for relationships among employees as well as relationships between employees and managers. It isn't enough to say, "You guys need to communicate better." Make open communication part of your company's culture.
Use Your Company Newsletter
If you don't have a company newsletter, start one. Maybe you have a column in your newsletter called "Communication Corner." Invite everyone to tell an anecdote of how communication helped them head off problems or reach a solution. When their anecdote is published, they get a gift card good for lunch at a local spot.
Email the newsletter to everyone but also post a colorful copy in the lunch or break room. Put up a "By the Way" or "Hot News" message board in the room, so people get used to looking at it and reading what's on it.
Schedule a Communication Workshop
Schedule an in-house workshop on communication. It should explain the importance of communication and have role-play situations so all can practice communicating in different scenarios. It can be fun and still get the message across.
Encourage Employee Cooperation
Stress that working together isn't a competition; it's a collective effort to reach common goals. Everyone has a vital role in reaching those goals. It's human nature to compare, however, and a little healthy competition can keep people motivated. Try to work cooperation into the mix.
Assign two people to work together on the "Hot News" board each week. Make it their responsibility to remove old items and add new ones, including at least one motivational message.
Carve out an hour on Mondays or midweek for a fun, cooperative activity like an office scavenger hunt. Pair people randomly to hunt together. One hour, or even just 30 minutes, is enough to inject some lighthearted cooperation into the workplace. Prizes for the winners could be gift cards or hats, shirts or mugs printed with the company logo.
Ask for Feedback
As a manager, don't be afraid to ask employees for feedback of all kinds. At first, you'll need to request it and assure your employees you want their input. You could do this in a collaborative session or begin with an anonymous suggestion form, or both.
Distribute Suggestion Forms
Distribute suggestion forms to everyone by email to use when they have feedback to give. It could be feedback about an office interpersonal problem or comments on a specific project. They can email them to you, but also designate a place they can be dropped off anonymously.
Read them as you receive them and carefully consider the comments. While some may be painful, you need to know how your employees feel about what is going on in the company. You may be surprised.
Hold Regular Forums
Hold regular forums to discuss one topic. This helps keep an employee from hijacking the session with an unrelated pet peeve. Ask everyone to come prepared with a comment or idea to share. Explain that you want to hear from every employee because everyone's opinion matters. Announce the forum a few days in advance to give people time to think of what they want to share.
After holding regular sessions on different topics, employees will realize that you are serious about wanting feedback, that you want to hear from everyone, and that you're listening. Try to make changes based on feedback where you can, so tangible results of the input can be seen.
Inspire and Reward
People work better and are happier and more productive when they're motivated by encouragement and inspiration rather than by criticism and punishment. Sometimes, it's just the way you phrase it. For example, you could tell an employee if he doesn't improve his sales numbers, he won't get his bonus, or you could tell him that he's on the right track and, with extra effort to improve his sales numbers, he'll get a bonus.
Consider offering other rewards, too, like smaller bonuses or other rewards at interim points to keep employees motivated. While a big bonus is the carrot dangling at the end, place smaller enticements to keep employees going. At halfway to their sales goal, for example, they could receive movie tickets, a gift card for dinner out, or a small portion of the bonus.
When someone reaches a goal, acknowledge them by gathering the whole team together and announcing the achievement. A win for one is a win for the whole company.
Share the Vision
Your vision for the company shouldn't be a secret. Share it with the entire staff, so they know the goal you're all shooting for. If the vision is a lofty one, bring it down to earth by explaining what it means.
Use visual aids to get their attention and enhance understanding. The aids should include where each department and role fits in to show how each is important to the outcome.
Be enthusiastic when explaining the vision. Enthusiasm is contagious. It won't be long before the employees have taken on the vision as their own.
- Forbes: The Unlikely Leader: 7 Ways to Improve Employee/Boss Relationships
- Business.com: How to Improve Relations Between Your Managers and Employees
- Entrepreneur: 3 Strategies for Managing Employee Relations as Your Company Grows
- NBCnews.com: How to Be Happier at Work, According to Scientific Studies
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.