How to keep staff happy at work

The issue of what makes us happy in the workplace is not a simple one, but, according to research, the most important factor in securing goodwill from staff is good communication and good relationships with colleagues.

It might sound obvious, but two recent studies have suggested that this is actually the most difficult thing to get right – because so many employees are unhappy.

A survey published last week by HR consultancy Chiumento found 73% of British workers cited good
relationships with colleagues as the key reason they enjoy their jobs, while only 48% cited financial reward.

It also found that one in five workers were unhappy. This comes after last year’s employee engagement study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that only a mere three in 10 employees were engaged with their work.

Chiumento chief executive, Sarah Chiumento, said: “Business should not ignore the value of good relationships at work. Simple ways to boost happiness include treating staff fairly, ensuring communication is good, and fostering a positive atmosphere.”

If the statistics make for depressing reading, there are, at least, some companies who are getting it right. Chiumento highlighted small businesses as having the happiest employees. Eighty six per cent of employees who work for organisations with between 20 and 100 staff feel happy, compared with 78% of employees who work in organisations with more than 1,000.

Simon Briault, a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We’re not surprised at these results. In small businesses there is an informal, personal atmosphere that you don’t get in large organisations.

“People talk a lot, which means that problems and office politics tend to get ironed out early on. In the small business workplace, there’s a lot to be said for face-to-face contact and working things out.”

Briault pointed to the federation’s recent ‘sickness survey’ of absence due to ill health. This found that the average number of days small businesses lost due to absence per employee was 1.8 days, compared with the average of 8.4 days in businesses of all sizes, as reported by the CIPD.

Ensuring happiness in the workplace may be a tougher task for larger organisations, but an HR manager can put strategies in place to raise awareness of the importance of feeling content.

David Fairhurst, vice-president of people at McDonalds, said: “We have developed two levels of communication. The first is focused on our management community, and aims to set the commercial context for our activities. This is important as it helps managers give their people a sense of the strategic direction of the business. The second is focused on all of our people, and aims to create a sense of community across the organisation.”

He adds the company has an internal website, which acts as an online community, and a new management magazine.

According to Sarah Chiumento, happy employees will improve the working environment and increase revenue.

“If organisations think a little more deeply about what employees really want, and what will make them happy, they could reap the rewards.”

by Zoe Grainge

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