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Blog : "A happy nation is a productive nation”, why the Government may just be right...


"A happy nation is a productive nation”, why the Government may just be right...

A happy nation is a productive nation”, why the Government may just be right...We were interested to learn that the Government proposes using happiness and wellbeing measures to not only shape policy regarding the welfare of the nation but to include this as part of an initiative to change the way that GDP is measured.

David Cameron said “The country would be better off if we thought about wellbeing as well as economic growth”. Although this has been criticised, we believe that it’s definitely a step in the right direction. We have been able to prove year in, year out that happy people make for a positive and successful company. Wouldn’t it be great if this was something that was a norm rather than, sad to say, an exception? If all organisations really understood and valued the importance of role satisfaction, with metrics in place to ensure this is continuously improving, then wouldn’t everyone be happier?

On average the UK working population spends 32% of our waking time working, for many it is more like 50%, and this doesn’t include time out with work colleagues, or thinking about work during leisure time. Work life balance has therefore become increasingly important to people, with 31% of employees citing this as one of the top three motivating factors at work. (Mercer - Nov 2010). They also attest that employers are misjudging what lies beneath attraction, retention and motivation leading to a 17% drop in employee engagement since 2006.

Whilst, as a small business we understand it is difficult to increase base pay or increase feelings regarding job security, two of the four drivers cited in the Mercer research - work life balance and how people feel when they are at work i.e. their role satisfaction, is something that can be easily improved. And since there is a direct correlation between role satisfaction and productivity, a happy and engaged workforce is not only beneficial to the employee but also to the bottom line.

Through our suite of talent toolbox products which help manage talent online, for over nine years now, we have recommended that in addition to performance management, development needs analysis and working out succession plans and risk, all important ‘happiness’ levels are always checked. A useful indicator of the ‘health’ of the workforce, this can easily be benchmarked over time and used to improve employee experience and productivity levels. It can be measured by a one off engagement survey, or continually as part of performance reviews; an approach we believe to be far more effective.

Over the years we have found it necessary to defend use of ‘the happy question’ many times. Many people don’t ‘get’ the point or think this is too ‘wooly’ or ‘fluffy’. When you think about it though, what tougher measure of whether the leadership teams are doing their job could there be? Achieving happiness at work (and therefore improved UK-wide happy levels) is much more than just offering a ‘flexible working policy’. It is about recruiting people who can make progress and perform well within your organisation; it is about having clarity of role, responsibility, goals and purpose. It’s also about everyone in the organisation agreeing that this is the way ‘we do things around here’ and establishing the necessary trust and structure. It’s about treating people as individuals, understanding what would make them happy and therefore more productive and, as long as there’s a equitable balance for business and individual; making it happen – consistently. If you are a SME and haven’t thought about this before, an ideal way would be to ask for feedback about how you as an organisation can be a better place to work. You might be surprised that often the smallest of changes can bring about big results. You don’t know unless you ask… Let us know how you get on!

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