Futureproofing your business is a key area of concern for most entrepreneurs, especially within a service industry where people mean business. Inevitably, your team’s happiness is intrinsically tied into this – both professionally and personally. And with the definition of happiness being different for each individual, this can be a tricky element to influence.
There have been a whole host of studies over the years that have examined this topic and all conclude that happy employees are around a third more productive than unhappy employees. Guardian Job’s latest study found that half of those surveyed were happy or very happy at work despite a third claiming that their workload and subsequently stress had increased recently. It is inevitable that most jobs will entail a certain degree of stress – so how can employers effectively balance the stress / happiness conundrum?
For me, happiness in my personal life is linked to sport – or more specifically, my obsession with cycling. It is a place where I can switch off from the world and focus on achieving my goal of cycling 40km in under an hour – and this stress release undoubtedly helps me maintain a positive attitude and perform better at work. And, although difficult in terms of time, it is especially important to maintain this even when work is hugely busy and highly stressful.
However, 30 years of experience running Hunterlodge has clearly highlighted that not everyone finds their happiness in the same thing – some look for financial reward, others for autonomy or career development whilst many simply like to feel valued and appreciated. Spotting these individual nuances in happiness at an early stage and discussing openly and regularly is an effective way of monitoring happiness in your workforce and futureproofing your business against negative outcomes.
When talking about happiness at work, it is also essential to consider mental health as a pivotal factor in ascertaining your employees’ wellbeing. Within the UK in December 2016, 23 million days were lost to workplace absence – driven by a significant rise in mental health conditions. Current predictions are suggesting that workplace absence will hit a new high in 2017 – with mental health issues increasing year on year since 2011. All of this will undoubtedly have a negative impact of motivation and productivity with a higher chance of increased staff turnover. It is important that employers are working towards strategies to mitigate these issues, opening up regular lines of communication and building mental health wellbeing into your HR capacity.
This realisation has culminated in Hunterlodge building staff happiness into our monthly one to one systems. Rather than yearly appraisals, we run a best-in-class monthly one to one appraisal system that covers a number of key areas pertinent to staff happiness. In fact, it is the very first point that is discussed – to find out how happy each individual is in their everyday role at Hunterlodge and how they would rate their work/life balance. This ensures that our managers are thinking about each staff members’ happiness on a monthly basis and having 360-degree conversations around how we can help influence this. Depending on individual motivations, we can then build solutions into their bespoke development plans – through additional training, better support, pathways to promotions or financial rewards, flexible working or improving their working environment.
The last few years has also seen us introduce regular hackathons into our business strategies. Analysis has shown that happiness at work is intrinsically linked to employees feeling heard and valued so we have worked to incorporate this into our working life. This takes the form of an open forum where staff across all departments work in collaboration to solve key issues, brainstorm for business improvements and help to drive the organisation forward. To keep creative thinking at the forefront in between wider company meetings, we have also incorporated ‘Thought for the Board’ into our monthly one to ones where staff can also input their ideas.
There is undoubtedly a strong business case to keeping your staff happy. A happy team will create an engaged and loyal workforce with much higher rates of retention and a competitive chance of recruiting stronger and more diverse talent which can translate into a more effective method of futureproofing your business. However, it is also important to remember the basics and be authentic in your efforts. Be transparent and encourage regular feedback and communication, make work-life balance a key priority and recognise and reward your talent through strong staff development and training plans. In essence, make sure you build staff happiness into the culture of your company rather than just paying it lip service and it will pay dividends in the future.