By John Rampton, founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.
The working world’s obsession with hustle culture may finally be ending. This shift in career aspirations means that there’s an opportunity—no, a necessity—to cultivate happy, healthy and thriving workplaces in 2023.
For business leaders, this perspective shift offers an opportunity to leverage best management practices alongside your company’s purpose. In the new year, consider these happiness-inducing leadership strategies to help change the way your organization feels about work.
1. Bring Your ‘Why’ To The Forefront
As a company, your “why” is at the very core of what you do. But even among the most committed professionals, the drumbeat of daily tasks can distract from your overall purpose. Combat the draining effect of day-to-day minutiae by integrating the why of what you do into every facet of your work.
Take a cue from tech firms like Amazon and place an empty chair in your meeting rooms to signify your customer or client. This silent reminder of who you’re doing what you do for can lead to more thoughtful conversations and decisions.
Use personas to think through your clients’ journeys, assigning real or stock imagery to depict them and their needs. This visual aid can help your employees better connect with their impact, even if they aren’t client-facing. When your employees better understand how their work makes a difference, they experience greater satisfaction and tend to be happier and more productive at work.
2. Invest In Your Employees’ Growth And Development—No Strings Attached
Traditionally, employers have provided a standard package of benefits to their employees. The usual health insurance and paid time off might be complemented by education reimbursements. Although free education is a generous offer, the strings attached could make this sweetheart deal turn sour.
To boost employee happiness, avoid presenting education benefits as a quid pro quo scenario. Instead of dictating plans of instruction, modify your education reimbursement program to provide a set annual amount for learning and development. Free up your employees’ options, allowing them to choose what to study versus requiring courses to be narrowly role-focused. Who knows? Enabling your marketing manager to take an art history class might prove even more valuable than an SEO certification course would have.
Collaborate with your management team to determine how your education benefits can boost employee engagement and retention. Review recent engagement surveys to identify concerns that your management team can strive to resolve. One such issue might be the time required outside of work to complete course requirements. If your workload demands can support it, update your policies to allow employees to learn during work hours. Providing support in both funding and time can improve course completion rates, boost employee satisfaction and enhance on-the-job results.
3. Develop Clear Career Trajectories And Organizational Goals
If there’s one happiness killer at work, it’s lack of clarity. When project plans, individual goals and decision-making criteria are unclear, it can put your employees on the fast lane to dissatisfaction. Be honest with yourself as you assess how your organization performs in these areas. If your assessment yields anything less than happiness-inducing transparency, a change may be in order.
First, review your employees’ career progression plans, and if you don’t have them, create a framework now. Each role on your org chart should have a growth plan that helps employees move forward. This can include skills mastery, goal achievement or next steps on the career ladder. Each employee should know what success looks like and how to earn a promotion, should they want to.
The same principle applies to setting goals, which can often vary across departments. Implement a S.M.A.R.T. goal system, in which goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The combination of specificity, time-boundedness and measurability creates greater accountability for leaders and employees, establishing a playbook for success. Together, these improvements can boost employee happiness, especially regarding individual growth and team achievement.
Transparency And Collaboration
One trait of stale and out-of-touch leadership teams is a disconnect between seniority levels. Even if a CEO has risen through the ranks, it’s easy to forget the concerns of frontline workers. Counteract this possibility by building opportunities for feedback and collaboration between all levels of management.
Whether your chosen method is companywide surveys, manager-employee one-on-ones or some other tactic, establish channels for equitable input. By doing so, you’ll earn greater buy-in and build trust. Together, your organization can identify what success looks like, how to implement changes and how to create the happy, healthy workplace you’ve dreamed of.