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Why happy employees perform much better — and 5 ways to motivate everyone

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Happiness is a lot more than a great state of mind. It’s a hard-core business advantage.

Happy employees achieve their goals nearly a third more often than their colleagues – and for good reason. The happy people are 36% more motivated than their dour co-workers, according to research from the iOpener Institute and The Wall Street Journal.

Happy employees rock it

It gets better, too. Researchers found that compared to their dour co-workers, the happiest employees are:

  • 2x as productive
  • loyal to their jobs 5x longer
  • 6x more energized
  • using 10x less sick leave
  • helping their colleagues 33% more, and
  • achieving their goals 31% more of the time.

Finding happiness

“For many people, their working life becomes a kind of nemesis, rather than a place where they feel happy and valued,” says Sharon Salzberg, in her book Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. But “it is also a place where we can learn and grow and come to be much happier.”

Front-line managers can play an integral role in the happiness quotient on their teams and in the workplace.

Here are five research-proven and expert-tested ways to help build morale and happiness.

Boost confidence

Confident employees perform better than those who don’t feel they have the skills or knowledge to do the job well. This happens even when both are equally equipped. People who are confident just do a better job.

So you want more confident employees.

Managers can help all employees feel confident by building skills and boosting egos. Fortunately, both can be done through training – and not just the classroom variety. Give employees regular tips and tricks or better tools to do their work. Enlist outside trainers who can bring a fresh perspective and entertainment. Create, build and encourage use of a Learning Management System so employees can train and build skills at any convenient time.

Play up strengths

Even with strong training, managers can usually see that team members are particularly good at something — their niche, per se.

You’ll want to watch and listen for where employees are most competent — or the tasks and projects they’d like to work on most. Praise those attributes and assign them more work using their expert skills.

Delegate more

So you’ve trained employees, boosted their confidence and put them in the position to do the work in which they excel. That’s when it’s time for managers to let go more and allow them to take charge.

Many managers think they’re delegating when they peel off their less-desired tasks to good employees. But that only serves the manager.

Let go of responsibilities that allow employees to develop more skills. Don’t expect they’ll do everything the way you do. Expect that they’ll find creative ways to do and enjoy the work.

Promote value

Training people well and assigning work that allows them some freedom and challenge are important early steps in building a motivated environment.

Once employees are settled into their roles, managers want to continue to define their value to the organization. Many of those regular, informal conversations can start like this:

  • “When you do X, it has this positive impact on our team performance because …”
  • “I appreciate your … because it does X for our company.”
  • “Your efforts have affected … These people have taken notice and appreciate your hard work.”

Hit the reward target

Rewarding good behavior and performance with a carrot, instead of punishing poor performance with a stick, creates a positive environment.

But understand that not everyone likes carrots – or lunch with the boss, tickets to a game, admission to a ballet, Uber Eats cards or a front-row parking space.

Different things motivate different employees. Managers want to find out what stimulates the best performance from each employee, not the masses. Then reward them in that personalized way.

Try offering a menu of rewards, and let employees pick what suits them.

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