Employee Productivity, Happiness and Success

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Employee productivity, happiness and success seem to be forever linked. Whether it was Dale Carnegie or Zig Ziglar or any of the other countless success-seeking sages over the years, we’ve all been told that one of the big keys to success is making those around you successful and happy. Help others achieve their goals and you build a team of people who naturally want to help you achieve yours.

This is a tried and true technique for improving results in everything from business to personal relationships.  But does it work for HR and employee productivity?  The short answer is yes.

According to a recent study by economists at the University of Warwick, happiness in workers led to a 12% spike in productivity. By the same token unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. That’s a 22% swing in productivity

Employee productivityThe researchers point to Google, long known for its employee perks, from laundry service to transportation to slides between floors.  Google has documented an increase of employee “happiness” of 37%, indicating that investment in non-salary initiatives to increase employee happiness can definitely work.

Dr. Daniel Sgroi, one of the leaders of the research, concluded: “Having scientific support for generating happiness-productivity cycles within the workforce should … help managers to justify work-practices aimed at boosting happiness on productivity grounds.”

Is it this simple? Just make employees happy and they will work harder and achieve more? Probably yes AND no.

Of course, you need to make sure that the right people are in the right jobs with the right skills and the right guidance and development. Those are wide ranging issues that touch hiring, performance management and training.

But wouldn’t a lack of any of these factors result in a sense of frustration and unhappiness in employees?

A strong case could be made that if you regularly asked your employees if they are happy and asked them what was preventing them from being happier, you’d likely identify problems with job fit, skill deficits, lack of proper management, etc.  You’d identify areas to invest in, both in aggregate and on an individual level, that could decrease personal stress and increase employee productivity.

Google doesn’t offer free laundry service because it prefers its employees whites to be whiter. They do it because availability of this service at work is a convenience that reduces friction in their employees’ personal lives, reduces stress and makes it easier to be at work.

So maybe we’re overthinking employee engagement and performance. At the most basic level, it very well may be that the act of asking employees how happy they are, and what would make them happier, is the key to a high performance workforce.

How great is that? Make people happy and get up to a 22% boost in employee productivity? Sounds like a fun job.

When was the last time you asked your employees how they are doing and what would make them happier?

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