Are your people happy? As it turns out, most are. Seven out of 10 employees around the world are satisfied with their well-being at work overall, the 2016 Edenred-Ipsos Barometer concluded. That’s good because in business, happiness matters.
Contented workers are more innovative, motivated and efficient. In fact, a positive workplace environment “will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line,” including reduced health care costs, lower turnover and higher engagement, according to the Harvard Business Review. Statistically speaking, satisfied employees contribute to a company’s sustained performance—and ultimate success or failure.
The overall satisfaction, while positive, masks some underlying issues. While employees across all countries surveyed are more satisfied with environment-related aspects, they are much less so with emotional issues and appreciation. Further complicating matters is today’s unpredictable economic environment, competing for employers’ attention on staff well-being. These areas provide room for improvement for employers. Here are five ways to better understand and enhance workplace well-being.
- Understanding well-being – To improve it, employers first have to understand what contributes to happiness at work. Ipsos interviewed 14,400 employees in 15 of the world’s largest economies for the 2016 Edenred-Ipsos Barometer—in all, more than 100,000 interviews have been conducted since the first edition 11 years ago. The study identified three factors influencing well-being (in order of most important to least): environment, appreciation and emotion.
- Measuring well-being – Here are the components companies should evaluate in each of these three factors:
Environment: Staff has the needed equipment and materials; employees clearly know what managers expect; employees can rely on colleagues for support; and staff feel satisfied with their work-life balance.
Appreciation: Employees feel respected by management; managers provide ample opportunities for training, transitioning and upgrading skills.
Emotion: Employees find the job interesting and stimulating; they feel confident about their professional future; and generally are excited to head to work in the morning.
- Cultural differences – Although globally 71% feel positive about their workplace well-being, there are marked differences across countries, national economic environments, job markets and employees, influenced by varying expectations and cultural differences. American employees are among the most satisfied at work (77%), just behind India (88%) and Mexico (81%), while the Japanese are the least so (44%). Strong scores in Emotion drive “best-in-class” countries, and matured economies provide clear expectations for Emotion and Appreciation. American employees tend to balance the importance of the three factors, and aren’t as concerned with Emotion. They feel that they have the equipment they need for the most part to do the job, supportive colleagues and decent work-life balance, but don’t particularly love going to work in the morning or find their job very interesting. Although there is a high correlation between workplace well-being (77%) and feeling the company has active policies to promote well-being in place (82%) among U.S. workers.
- Generational differences – Contrary to the perception, there is not a huge difference between the generations when it comes to work well-being. Under-30 Millennials get a bad rap for not stepping into traditional corporate hierarchy and being trickier to motivate. But their behavior and expectations are actually similar to those of older colleagues. Further, Millennials say they feel more motivated to work and more respected by management than employees 30 and older. This means companies should focus on how to give all employees what they need to feel fulfilled and committed, whatever their generation, in an increasingly digitized, horizontal and multi-task-oriented environment.
- How to operationalize this – Employers should first take a critical look at their HR policies. More than work hour flexibility, health promotion, employee diversity and the integration of young people, it’s Human Resources policies that shape well-being on the job—and personal development is No. 1.
Employees are most concerned with training and skills enhancement opportunities,. But despite that, only 68% say their company has an active training policy. Even fewer (64%) believe there’s a solid end-of-career management plan in place, which is critical in markets such as the U.S. where an aging Baby Boomer generation is now heading toward retirement. While U.S. companies tend to have more active skills development policies than others, this is clearly an area for improvement. Forging close relationships with start-up incubators and skills sponsorship are good places to start. Other key issues are managing end-of-career transitions successfully and improving the organization’s digital culture.
Most importantly, companies must develop active, fully integrated policies to encourage and manage well-being at work. “Such strategies seem to be giving real benefits…in reducing turnover and increasing the productivity and engagement of employees,” according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a global professional HR association. The evidence is clear. Now it’s up to employers to act on it.