shutterstock_221740312The most daring leaders realize that inspiring employees to assume ownership and responsibility is essentially telling them, “I trust you and your contributions are essential to our firm’s success.” When employees show up to work, do the minimum, assume no responsibility and then collect their paycheck it’s a waste for the individual and for the organization. In order to fully capitalize on the talents and abilities of people, you need to invest in them and find ways to make them happy. Learn what matters most to them, what they enjoy doing, and what frustrates them from reaching their full potential.

Tinypulse’s 2015 Best Industry Ranking studied over 30,000 employee responses across more than 500 companies and assessed cross industry-employee sentiment. The results were surprising. Construction and facilities services employees ranked No. 1 for overall employee happiness, while manufacturing ranked last at No. 12. This data breaks our misconceptions about the construction sector and gives management an opportunity to focus in on what engages these happiest of employees to see how to apply these strategies.

Over the top examples of giving back to employees

In 2012, Yang Yuanqing, CEO of Lenovo a Chinese Computer company, redistributed his $3,000,000 to about 10,000 of the employees working under him. This amounts to about $300 per employee, about the typical worker’s monthly pay. Yang felt that it would be the right thing to “redirect [the money] to the employees as a real tangible gesture for what they’ve done”.

When Apple’s former CEO, Steve Jobs’ secretary, a single mother, came in late due to her car having trouble starting. Later that day in the afternoon, Jobs walked into the office and threw her a set of keys to a brand new Jaguar car, saying: “Here, don’t be late anymore.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos takes a pretty unique approach in providing career help to its employees at the company’s fulfillment centers, where Amazon’s orders get packaged and shipped.

Since 2012, Amazon offered a program called “Career Choice,” where the company pays 95%, of tuition and text book costs for its fulfillment and customer service center employees to take courses in non-work related fields, such as airplane mechanics, nursing, and medical lab technologies.

Bezos wrote, “In the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.” Amazon exclusively funds education in high demand areas according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. Bezos gave $100,000 to help employees facing personal problems which resulted in a highly motivated workforce with a deep sense of community who value productivity.”

In 2006, the John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, Whole Foods co-founders and co-CEO’s have spoken out in favor of “conscious capitalism,” or the idea that companies should aspire to a higher purpose than just being profitable.

Mackey reduced his salary to $1 a year, donated his entire portfolio to charity, and set up a $100,000 fund for staff facing personal problems. Once a month, Whole Foods sends each store a detailed report on profitability and sales at each of the chain’s locations. In fact, in the late 1990s the widespread availability of so much detailed financial data led the SEC to classify all of the company’s 6,500 employees as “insiders,” according to a 1996 story by Fast Company.

Mackey and others at Whole Foods believe that a culture of shared information helps create a sense of a “shared fate” among employees. “If you’re trying to create a high-trust organization, an organization where people are all-for-one and one-for-all, you can’t have secrets.” His innovative management strategy has built a community of employees who value productivity.

Realistic things you can do to increase employee happiness

  • Inspire and Motivate – Energize people to achieve exceptional results
  • Increase Trust
  • Develop Others
  • Communicate Powerfully – Provides others with a definite sense of direction and purpose.
  • Integrity and Honesty – Work hard to walk the talk and avoid saying one thing and doing another.
  • Relationship Building – Balance getting results with a concern for others needs.
  • Focus on Employee-Job Fit
  • Hire the right people, focus on cultural fit
  • Encourage Professional Enrichment

Management often hires people who on paper appear to be a great hire but once on the job hate their daily responsibilities. They may have said “yes” to the job but soon come to realize it bores them. You could avoid hiring people who’ll be a poor fit for the job by looking beyond their skills and abilities to understand what excites them and what turns them off. If you want a positive, collaborative environment, then when you interview new job candidates, make sure you factor in their personality as well as their professional skill sets and accomplishments.

Recognize what brings employees down

  • Unsupportive manager
  • A boss who lacks integrity
  • Lack of tools and resources to complete the job
  • Little opportunity for professional growth
  • Poor internal processes and systems
  • Dissatisfaction with colleagues

Joe Folkman’s recent Harvard Business Review article, Are you creating disgruntled employees? highlights that too often management underestimates the risk and negative impact discontented employees have on a firm. He warns managers about the damage these employees can do:

  • Create irreversible damage to your brand
  • Alienate your most valuable clients and cause very expensive mistakes
  • Leak important company information and participate in internet “bad-mouthing”
  • Cause others around them to be upset and disengaged in their work
  • Be guilty of theft, tardiness, missed deadlines

Open Communication and Building Trust

Research shows that there’s a clear link between transparency and employee happiness. When you regularly ask your employees what’s on their minds and start measuring your culture, you’ll improve your culture, build mutually trusting relationships, and gain a competitive advantage. Most people want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. So if management wants to attract, engage, and retain its top talent, you’ll invest in understanding what makes them tick. While you might not want to give up your salary or redistribute all your profits, you may want to get honest feedback for what makes employees happy and what areas you need to improve to inspire them to feel like owners.

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