Dr. W. Edwards Deming was fond of saying people deserve to have joy in their work and managers have no right to take that away from them.
Most people will agree that happy employees perform better and make customers happier. Some interesting studies have been done to attempt to discover what makes employees happy in their work. The results are interesting.
One of those studies conducted by Workplace Dynamics and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune lists four factors as most important: Conditions, Direction, Career, and Execution. Notice that pay and benefits are not included. This fits with other studies, which usually list money in the top ten but most often in the second five. Money is not normally a motivator but it can be a demotivator.
Conditions include feeling genuinely appreciated by the company, the job provides a feeling of being a part of something meaningful, and the company follows strong values and ethics.
Appreciation is very key element to happy employees but it has to be genuine because they will see through the sham of mere words. Deming also used to say that dogs like a pat on the back and people do too. Positive reinforcement not only helps to guide employees but also gives them energy and the drive to perform even better.
The feeling of being a part of something meaningful is another strong intrinsic motivator. People want to be proud of their work and take great satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. Strong values and ethics contribute to the personal satisfaction and pride of the employees.
Direction involves believing that the company is going in the right direction and having confidence the leadership is capable of getting it there. Providing the aim of the organization is the responsibility of the leader; painting the picture of what the organization will look like at some point of time in the future in memorable, inspirational, and compelling terms. This vision must be communicated to all employees so that they may make timely decisions that help the company reach that vision. Remember, communication has two equal parts; sending and receiving. In order to ensure that employees completely understand the vision, it should be provided in both oral and written format. The Japanese have a saying that it takes more than one of the senses to communicate. Discussion opportunities should be provided so that understanding and buy-in are achieved.
Career satisfaction is achieved when the employees feel confidence in their future at this company and that they are on the path to achieving their personal vision of what they want to be doing at the height of their careers. Both of these factors should be discussed with supervisors on a regular basis. The leaders need to have a clear understanding of the wants and needs of the employees and the employees need to have a clear understanding of what they should do to advance and stay on the path to achieving their vision of their career.
The execution factor means the employees feel that management is leading the company to top-level performance. They do the best job they can with the processes they are given but rely on management to constantly, relentlessly, forever improve the work processes so the employees can do their job better.
Paying attention to these four key factors will not only result in happier employees but also happier management, customers, and owners. It is a win for everyone.