15 ways to make employees happy

Originally posted May 2, 2014 by Dan Cook on www.benefitspro.com.

You can offer employees a lavish buffet lunch onsite every day, bring in a masseuse on Fridays and hold the company picnic at Disney World. But at the end of the day, if you have the wrong people in the wrong jobs, you will still not have a happy workforce.

That is the message from social-recognition software provider Globoforce in a white paper titled “The Science of Happiness.” Most of the material cited in the paper comes from sources other than Globoforce. However, the company teases out tips for creating a culture of happiness based on its research of others’ research. And therein one can find tasty tidbits of advice that may begin to transform your workplace into a happy one.

“HR leaders encounter a lot of advice about how to manage culture — to increase engagement, decrease turnover, and drive recruitment. But when it comes to creating a culture employees love and don’t want to leave, employee happiness is the metric that really matters,” Globoforce says in a preamble to its data and advice. “Happy employees are what make a culture great.”

The paper says happy employees:

• stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues;

• believe they are achieving their potential twice as much;

• spend 65 percent more time feeling energized;

• are 58 percent more likely to go out of the way to help their colleagues;

• identify 98 percent more strongly with the values of their organization;

• are 186 percent more likely to recommend their organization to a friend.

“Unlike culture itself, we have hard numbers on the science of employee happiness and how to directly increase it. It all leads to one conclusion: concentrating your efforts on making employees happy is the most direct and powerful way to impact your organizational culture,” Globoforce says.

Now, to the tips for putting a smile on your workers’ face.

5 ways to build alignment

1. Pay closer attention to job-person fit.

2. Fire people who don’t fit your culture.

3. Help employees find greater meaning in your values.

4. Show workers how your company fits into a bigger picture.

5. Cultivate more trust and flexibility into your policies.

5 ways to build positivity

1. Broadcast personal and team successes.

2. Offer fast, positive feedback.

3. Open up multidirectional communication lines.

4. Offer resources and emotional support.

5. Encourage employees to express gratitude.

5 ways to build progress

1. Set clear, measurable and achievable organizational goals.

2. Show employees how they fit into the bigger picture.

3. Offer training for mastery of new and existing skills.

4. Respect individualism.

5. Reward excellence and effort.

3 simple programs to incorporate wellness into the workplace

The biggest challenge facing HR professionals looking to devote resources to wellness initiatives in their organizations is responding to the question, “What’s the ROI?” It seems intuitive that if you create a healthier workforce, your cost for health insurance should go down. But intuition only goes so far these days when it comes to expending corporate resources, and quantifying ROI continues to be a somewhat elusive target.

Sure, there is lots of evidence to support the notion that health management programs do pay off. Mercer's National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans has found that employers that demonstrated a greater commitment to wellness and health management experienced annual cost increases that were two percentage points lower, on average, than those of other employers. But, as compelling as that data is, it still doesn’t constitute scientific proof.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion did provide some hard data on the ROI of a “comprehensive” health and productivity management program. Start-up costs led to negative ROI for the first year, but strong ROI in years two and three produced a combined 2.45:1 ROI for all three program years of the study.

The study represented the results of over 20,000 program participants each year and identified the following components for what researchers considered a “comprehensive” program: comprehensive program design, management support, integrated incentives, comprehensive communications, dedicated onsite staff, multiple program modalities, health awareness programs, biometric health screenings and vendor integration.


Clearly, the study benefitted from the law of large numbers. When you have 20,000 participants, virtually any health management program you install is going to benefit somebody. But not every company has that luxury. Also, not every company will have the resources to incorporate every single aspect of a comprehensive program as outlined above.

Does that mean you shouldn’t even start down that road? No, absolutely not. Wellness and health management programs can be scaled to fit the needs of companies of almost any size, as long as you have the data to help identify what the needs are. But even without a lot of data or a lot of money to spend, a walking program, a healthy eating campaign or a “know your numbers” program will not only heighten awareness of health issues, it will send employees a message that their employer’s concern for them extends beyond what’s included in their job description. A healthier, more engaged workforce should be a more productive workforce, and everyone benefits from that.

Many clients may think that all this wellness stuff is a bunch of “hooey”; but with health costs continuing to escalate faster than wages, and employees’ increasing difficulty to afford cost shifts, savvy advisers will be prepared to discuss the many advantages of a well-designed health management program.

By George Lane