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According to research released earlier this year from The University of Warwick in Britain, people are considerably more productive when they are happy at work. No surprise there. Instinctively, we all know that happy employees are central to the success of any organization. However, it can be difficult to pin down why.
Most managers and executives wouldn’t say that their goal is to lead a group of depressed, unhappy employees. Yet many succeed in creating the stereotypical environment where employees drag themselves to work on Monday and spend the rest of the week looking forward to Friday. In fact, according to a research study from Gallup, unhappy employees outnumber happy ones by two to one.
In the study, Gallup defines feeling “engaged” as having a sense of passion for your work, a deep connection to your employer, and feeling that you spend most of your day driving innovation and moving your company forward.
Overall, Gallup found that only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs.
The vast majority, 63%, are “not engaged.” This group is unhappy but not alarmingly so. They are mostly just there for the paycheck. They sleepwalk through their days and put little energy into their work. And a whopping 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning they pretty much hate their jobs.
Why should this concern us?
Well, the Warwick study confirms that on average, happiness makes people 12% more productive. The study included four different experiments with more than 700 participants. Economists carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder.
Outside the lab, some companies are demonstrating just how innovative and productive people can be when they are truly happy to be there. Google is a shining example of a company that is intensely dedicated to employee support.
Google offers workers a lot of perks, most of which are unheard of anywhere else. Employees have access to free rental cars if they need to run an errand, free gyms on campus, and some offices even offer on-site daycare. Employees get free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also coffee and juice bars scattered throughout campuses. Employees at the Mountain View campus can even take advantage of a free shuttle that allows them to live all over the San Francisco area without the hassle of driving in traffic.
At Google, new dads receive six weeks of paid leave while moms can take 18 weeks after the birth of a child. Employees’ stock continues to vest and they continue to receive bonuses while they are on leave. The perks go on and on because Google has realized that when their employees remain happy and healthy in all aspects of their lives, they are more focused, productive, innovative and engaged in their work.
We can all learn something from this: Whether you’re managing a small credit union or a fortune 100 company, happy employees don’t just happen. As leaders, we have to go out of our way to create an environment where everyone looks forward to being there.
Beyond creating good policies, we need to think about what our employees really want and what attracted them to want to work here in the first place, and then find a way to celebrate that. If you aren’t sure, then think about who the happiest employees are in your office. This can give you clues as to what’s working right so that you can replicate it elsewhere.
Regardless of your unique situation and culture, there are a few things we all want in a work place: Good communication, clear expectations, and plenty of praise and encouragement. We want the tools and resources we need to do our job well to be readily available. We want some level of freedom and autonomy. It really doesn’t take much, just a dedication to put people first in every area of our business. Which is, after all, what Credit Unions do best.