“Happiness is not a hammock” - the uncomfortable truth about employee engagement
According to a recent survey, over half of UK employees think their bosses could do more to show they appreciate them. Worryingly, a similar proportion would be willing to quit if they weren’t getting the recognition they felt they deserved.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Every business is grappling with the complex issue of how to keep staff happy at work. But many retail and hospitality managers will be particularly familiar with this problem, with both sectors regularly having to cope with annual staff turnover levels that can exceed 25 per cent.
Unfortunately there is no magic formula that can guarantee staff satisfaction - after all, happiness is very subjective. Playing golf makes me happy (most of the time), but I wouldn’t expect everyone to feel the same way.
However, from my experiences straddling the tech and service industries I believe many workplaces are in danger of going down the wrong path in trying to address the problem.
The root cause is a false assumption that building a great company culture relies on tangible (i.e. quantifiable) benefits or perks like bonuses, your birthday off, or even ‘pawternity’ leave. Yes, that’s actually a thing.
Cary Cooper, a leading professor in organizational psychology, recently illustrated this point by focusing on one increasingly popular perk - ‘cool’ offices. He cites studies that show that some of the things that matter more to staff are more sensible than ‘Instagrammable’, for example the ability to forge deep and meaningful relationships at work or having sufficient privacy. In his words, “happiness is not a hammock”.
Reading between the lines, employees are reminding us that the small stuff does matter. I witnessed this first hand while doing some ‘work experience’ shifts at a branch of a casual dining chain, where the dishwasher had recently broken. These things happen, of course, and it’s easy to understand why a single defective dishwasher might not be high up the overall list of priorities. However, it quickly became clear to me that the longer this went unresolved, the more upset the staff got. It had become such a black hole for morale that it completely negated any good will that may have been generated by the last evening of organised fun.
If you needed any further proof, just put on any episode of undercover boss and you’ll notice that team members are often more overjoyed about a change to company policy or a new piece of equipment that makes their lives easier than they are about getting additional paid holiday!
Showing your staff you appreciate their efforts isn’t about making grand gestures. Whereas team drinks might take place once a month or quarter, fully functioning workplace equipment will make a difference every single day. Managers who sweat the small stuff will win big when it comes to staff loyalty.
I’d love to hear what you think are biggest ‘little’ things to keep on top of to keep team morale high! Feel free to post your comments below or get in touch.