Creating a climate for open dialogue and trust makes people feel valued and keen to ‘go the extra mile’, says Simon Hayward from Cirrus in People Management.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) survey of national wellbeing discovered that people are less happy at work than in other areas of their lives.
The results of the wellbeing survey follow recent headline-grabbing ONS unemployment figures. With joblessness at its highest since 1994, the Bank of England not expecting to see any economic growth until the middle of next year, and a gloomy forecast from the UK government, some would argue that more people should feel happy simply to have a job. Although the ONS wellbeing survey did show that those in work do feel happier than those without a job (no real surprise there), employment alone does not bring fulfilment. To achieve this, employees need to be really engaged with their jobs.
The survey found that people are very happy with their children and family life (8.7 out of 10) and personal relationships (8.3), but scores dropped dramatically when it came to working life (6.7). What can leaders in organisations do to bridge this gap and help employees become happier at work? Perhaps some of the things many people value about their personal and family life, such as support, friendly relationships and open conversations, give us a clue about what we’d like to see more of in the workplace.
The pressure in many organisations to cope with the economic downturn means that many people have gone into survival mode. Employees in shrinking workforces are under pressure to do ‘more for less’. This can have a negative impact on organisational culture, destroy morale, and create unhappiness in the workplace. Climates of fear often result, with many employees afraid to speak up because they are afraid of losing their jobs.
We know that a great deal of research demonstrates a high correlation between engaged employees and levels of productivity and job satisfaction. Engaged employees are more willing to take responsibility and commit discretionary effort. So rather than feeling under pressure to do ‘more for less’, they tend to be keen to ‘go the extra mile’. Building engagement is difficult in the current climate, but it’s not impossible. And the resulting productivity gains are likely to be permanent and voluntary, rather than based on the fear of losing one’s job.
People appreciate openness and honesty – they are much more willing to accept bad news and tough decisions if they can understand the reasons behind them. Most also want to be part of the solution, so leaders can help by creating a climate for open dialogue. Through something as simple as quality conversation, ideas can flow, trust can be rebuilt, and people can feel valued. It can also contribute to a sense of happiness and wellbeing – which is good news for individuals, and good news for the nation.