How To Increase Productivity By Employee Happiness by Martin Zwilling
Whether you are an entrepreneur managing a startup, or a corporate executive with thousands of employees, it’s hard to ignore the evidence of big value from happy employees. For example, the Harvard Business Review a while back included an analysis of hundreds of studies showing an average of 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, with creativity three times higher.
The challenge is to find the best way to keep everyone on your team happy and productive. Google, which was ranked by Fortune magazine as the world’s best place to work, seems to put a lot of stock in providing a free food source to every employee, within three minutes from each office, via many micro-kitchens open 24/7 throughout their campus.
Unfortunately, I suspect it’s a little more complicated than that for most companies. Most experts agree that workplace happiness is hard to find, partially because we as humans are not particularly good at staying happy. Psychologist Ron Friedman, in his new book “The Best Place To Work,” explores this problem in detail, and I like the insights he offers to maximize your efforts:
- Reward frequency is more important than size. Business feedback indicates that smaller frequent positive feedback and rewards will keep people happy longer than a single large infrequent happy event. Even the biggest awards or raises “wear out” in less than a year, with most employees responding better to small doses every few days.
- Positive event variety prevents adaptation. People tend to discount events that happen repeatedly, no matter how positive. The value of going away on vacation is that it breaks the routine of everyday life, as well as making you recognize the pleasures of being back home. At work, variety could mean unique events or awards each month.
- Unexpected positive experiences deliver a bigger impact. When something surprising happens, our brains automatically pay closer attention, lending these events greater emotional weight. Thus you must make positive surprises more frequent, like special lunches or activities, to override the occasional unavoidable bad news.
- New life experiences have more impact than reward objects. Evidence indicates that providing new positive life experiences (for example, a hot-air balloon ride, wine-tasting class, or vacation to Italy) tends to provide a greater happiness boost than spending a comparable amount on material objects (flat-screen television, fancy suit, or purse).
- Happiness can be triggered outside of conscious awareness. Relaxing music can lift employee moods unconsciously, as can pleasing scents (nearby bakery, candles, or coffee). Stores and casinos use “aroma marketing” to put customers in positive moods, not for productivity, but to increase their optimism and willingness to spend.
- Focus on achievements leads to better job appreciation. Businesses need to spend more effort asking and listening to employee achievements, rather than a continuous focus on what’s broken or not done. Asking about achievements in a group setting encourages recognition of co-workers and gratitude expression, which catches on.