Creating a Happy Workforce

Since graduating college 30+ years ago, I have had many good and not so good experiences in business. I am sure this statement could be repeated by almost every person who has worked in a company. As a student of behavior, it has always amazed me how many make it so hard when, in my humble opinion, it is quite easy. After all, communication is simple—you have a sender, a message, and a receiver—yet we find ways to muck that up too.

Anyone who has worked with me in the past will say that I can be quite irritating with the “why” word. Not that I am disagreeable, but I have always thought it important to ask why to ensure an action or activity is necessary. Engaging in something “just because” never made much sense to me. Let me provide an example from a client. A manufacturing company engaged me to assist with one of their plants. The CEO explained that the company had recently acquired a plant from another manufacturer that had laid off most of the employees. Over the course of a few months, the new company had rehired many of the former employees and had taken steps to provide resources and benefits the previous owner had failed to provide. He further explained that the employees did not seem happy. He then detailed all the other things the company had provided to improve morale and motivation. He stated “we have given them so many things, but they still don’t seem happy”. I then asked a simple question….”Do you know WHY the employees are not happy?” His response was “um, I don’t know”.  That WHY started us on a path of discovering the root cause, which ultimately uncovered the reason for the discontent and a strategy was implemented that had a positive impact.

So, my question is WHY doesn’t a company provide an environment that results in a happy workforce? From my perspective, I would like to provide a few suggestions that can move any company to the Happy side of the ledger.

1. Hire Right. Jim Collins stated it perfectly that it is important to get the right people in the right seats on the bus going in the right direction. It begins with really understanding the skill sets needed for a position and taking the proper steps to ensure the best candidate is hired for a position. Putting the wrong candidate on the team can lead to frustration on the part of the new hire and discontent from the other members of the team. When was the last time the hiring processed was evaluated? What is the answer for “why did we hire this candidate?”.

2. Communicate Right. Let’s stick with the hiring process for the moment. Almost every new hire is fully engaged on the first day of employment. But, according the the DDI Global Selection Forecast 2012 report, 51% of new hires regret the decision to accept their current job and 40% of new hires are already looking for another job. I am confident that these statistics ring true in 2014. So, what happened? I contend that the expectations of the job are not communicated clearly to many new hires. Then, after they are hired, there is a lack of communication as to continued job expectations and feedback on job performance. For all employees, it is crucial to have constant open and clear communication in all facets of the business, from job performance, to company strategy and direction. Employees need to know how they fit in to the overall makeup of the company and how they make a positive impact.

3. Lead Right. Okay, this is a loaded topic, so I’ll do my best to be brief. Being a manager does not mean to boss. When I conduct management training workshops I ask the participants at the beginning what their primary role is as a manager. The most common response from the participants is “to make sure employees are doing their jobs”. During the course of the workshop I help them understand that as a manager, their primary role should be to provide all the tools and resources necessary to help the employee succeed and make a positive contribution to the team and the company……let them see they are making a difference. If a manager is spending too much time making sure an employee is just doing the job, please refer back to #1. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Zig Ziglar: “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

4. Serve Right. Serve? What in the heck are we serving? I am referring to servant leadership. There are many great books on servant leadership, but what does it mean. To me, it means being humble. It means admitting when I make a mistake. It means being able to apologize to a co-worker or direct report. Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. Over the years I have seen so many people in business spend all their time trying to not get blamed for things that go wrong or trying to take credit for things that go right.

Nothing that I have written is rocket science. It really is just common sense that speaks to our core behaviors as human beings. How we treat others in the workplace will determine the kind of environment we create where we spend most of our awake time. Wouldn’t you rather it be happy?

To your success,

Richard Davis, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC


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