Happy workers, bigger profits

IT’S been confirmed. We don’t just go to work to make money, we need satisfaction. Gallup research has shown that there’s a strong link between corporations’ success and staff happiness levels. Lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion a year in the US.

In these times of harsh economic realities, with businesses needing to cut costs and increase employee workloads, it’s no wonder depression and absenteeism are on the rise.

Yet some company heads are heeding the research, like a man I interviewed for a recent story on happiness. David Schwartz, who was involved in the inception of Nando’s in Australia, likes to “empower and energise” his staff and calls himself “an encourager”.

Schwartz is executive chairman of Pascoes, which supplies more than 200 household and industrial products, and co-founder of respected property syndicator Primewest.

He says: “It’s not always about the wages you pay, but much more to do with the job satisfaction that you, as a leader, offer. Tell a man to dig a hole, he’ll do it as part of his job.

“Tell him to close the hole and dig it up again and he’ll reluctantly do it because that’s his job. Tell him to do it a third time and most workers will refuse because it’s a waste of their time even though you are paying them to do the job.

“Employees need a sense of purpose. How much money any of us bring home is important. But it is the pride, honour and respect we come home from work with that makes us happy.”

Many successful corporations, like US-based online retailer Zappos, have gotten ahead by giving staff lots of motivational feedback and making them feel wanted.

Management believes that by showing them respect and kindness, they intuit how to treat customers. Leonard J. Glick, professor of management in the US, who teaches the art of motivating employees, told Forbes magazine: “It’s not about lavish perks: massages, free gourmet lunches, ping pong tables. Like money, these things tend to be less powerful motivators for workers than in-job challenges and the feeling of being a valuable part of a quality team that will recognise their contribution.”

Sydney-based corporate counsellor Jo Anne Baker supports this sentiment and encourages employees and managers to find a sense of purpose in their workplace.

Baker, who works for not-for-profit employee assistance company AccessEAP, says: “We help empower staff in all aspects of their lives and help them find inspiration in their jobs so they can feel happy, creative and productive.”

The message from the experts is clear; find work that gives you happiness. As Schwartz says: “Life is too short to waste digging and undigging the same hole.”

ruthostrow.com @OstrowRuth

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