It’s International Week of Happiness at Work and following the events of the last couple of years, we could all do with a little extra boost. While it’s satisfying to see emotional wellbeing at work being put under the spotlight, the pursuit of employee happiness is a year-round mission for HR and comms people, and one that can be bolstered with the right internal communications platform and approach.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”Thomas Jefferson
More than two centuries have passed since Thomas Jefferson shared the above wisdom, but the right to happiness remains as important as ever. Given that individuals in full-time employment spend roughly 50% of their waking hours at work, it’s not surprising that increasing employee happiness and wellbeing has become critical to internal communicators, and as part of progressive employee experience (EX) programs.
After all, if you’re going to spend tens of thousands of hours doing an activity, it’s probably better if you spend it feeling good.
Why is happiness in the workplace important?
It may seem like an overly simplistic question, but there are multiple reasons why employers should strive to create a happier workforce.
First, a contented workforce is more likely to be productive and engaged. Unhappy employees produce mediocre results while happy workers are 13% more productive, according to Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. And, although we can’t reduce happiness solely to business ROI, happy employees not only stay in post four times longer than unhappy counterparts, but they also have a reputed 65% more energy for their tasks.
No matter whether you’re an internal communicator, a HR professional, or an intranet software champion, contributing to a happier workplace can cut attrition rates, increase productivity, and improve engagement and company culture.
Secondly, every employer has a duty of care to make sure their people are thriving emotionally both inside and outside of their working lives, regardless of how it improves their performance at work. It’s only natural that we want to see our co-workers flourishing: a philosophy which is being shared more and more by organizations. This is evident in the term ‘destination employer’, which has become a recent addition to the HR lexicon. The term denotes companies that nurture a workplace culture that keeps employees happy and fulfilled.
14 steps to great internal communications
But, as we know, happiness isn’t a single destination that can be arrived at and never revised. It’s a continual journey that companies and individuals will negotiate together. There is no constant state of happy, so employers must work extra hard to keep people fulfilled—this is where management and senior leaders often look to internal comms and HR teams when they wish to improve their company’s EX.
Why should they want to do this? Aside from the above reasons about a happier workforce, EX itself is a rapidly growing focus area. According to Forrester, 78% of HR managers believe EX will become one of the most important factors when it comes to delivering on key business objectives.
At Interact, we’re privileged to provide internal communications software for millions of end users, so we receive regular feedback from our customers about what makes their colleagues feel good (and not just on a Friday). Here are our five essential tips to help HR teams and internal communicators make happiness a priority.
How to keep employees happy
1. Create personalized experiences
Nobody wants to feel like they’re just part of the herd, but one-size-fits-all communications can often do just that. According to MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trends Study, younger generations especially demand personalized communications. While it’s important that top-down content reaches everyone, empowering each employee to customize their experience through personalization will increase content relevancy even further.
An internal comms platform that follows an ‘internet of me’ approach will allow employees to select topics of interest, which can then be displayed alongside top-down content to reinforce a sense of individualism. It will also help to strike the balance between making them feel part of the workplace community without making them feel like the organization thinks of them as just another face in the crowd.
Creating dynamic employee user groups in your internal comms platform will also allow you to go beyond grouping employees solely by teams and departments. Based on their content personalization preferences and other dynamic factors, employees can be grouped according to various criteria, allowing relevant and impactful communications to be targeted at the groups they will resonate with the most.
2. Nurture a positive culture
A negative company culture depletes morale. It can also push staff turnover to the point where the company becomes a revolving door of people joining and quitting. Research from Deloitte reveals that 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. Yet the research also uncovered a disconnect between organizations that talk about their culture and those that embed their beliefs into their operations.
Put simply, it is ineffective to just tell employees you have a positive workplace culture and hope this will be enough to make it a reality. Organizations must actively faciltate and encourage positive experiences and interactions.
This is where HR and internal comms professionals can leverage intranet software as a powerful tool to enhance the employee experience. We’re bound to say this, of course, but a modern intranet is so much more than a document repository. An intranet with a lively, consumer-grade homepage design, for example, allows engaging posts to be quickly created and shared. When coupled with the great energy of ideas of internal communicators, this can create an EX platform (EXP) that embeds positivity into daily work life.
14 steps to great internal communications
Communications teams can use their intranet’s homepage feed to highlight positive news about the business, place people under the spotlight, and praise their achievements. The good news doesn’t necessarily have to be work related and can include life events that employees are happy having shared. The more employees see their peers sharing positivity and interacting with each other’s posts, the more they will feel inspired to do the same. In turn this builds a self-fulfilling culture of positivity that is right there on the homepage of your internal comms platform and can be shared through every channel so that positivity reaches every employee.
3. Make internal communication a two-way conversation
According to Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. So often, communication comes from the top down and employees who have something valuable to say aren’t given the opportunity to contribute. This not only impacts EX negatively, it also stifles the organization’s progress, whether it’s improving the product or service through collaboration or making internal improvements based on employee insights.
Two-way conversations also provide more opportunity for employee recognition and fulfilling interactions with peers. These kinds of interactions should be widely encouraged, whether work-related or not. Intranet software helps to foster such interactions by allowing employees to commend each other, write and publish work-related posts, and even share external content that resonates with others, from recipes to Netflix recommendations.
The ‘social intranet’ should be at the heart of any worthy internal communications strategy to improve employee happiness. The dopamine hit we get when something we post on social media receives likes and comments can be recreated in this way, and it can be more meaningful when the recognition that employees receive comes from their co-workers. In turn, this helps to improve every individual’s sense of value within the organization.
4. Reinforce your employees’ sense of purpose
Having a sense of purpose is becoming more and more important to employees. Recent research from HBR found 9 in 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. The purpose of the organization needs to be inspiring to employees who want to feel they are part of a greater good.
People are constantly inundated with negative news such as the impact of climate change, humanitarian crises, global political tensions, and economic uncertainty. Nobody wants to sit back and do nothing, and so the more people are exposed to these issues, the more they want to be part of the solution. The last thing any employee wants is to feel like they are contributing to these problems.
14 steps to great internal communications
HR and communications professionals can reinforce every worker’s sense of purpose by collaborating with business leaders to define a mission statement. This should be regularly communicated across the organization. A multichannel internal communications platform will allow comms teams to reach every employee and ensure that empowering messaging is always seen. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) credentials and milestones should also be communicated in the same way. A comms platform that enables two-way conversations will also give employees a voice on issues that are important to them and allow them to put forward company initiatives.
5. Measure sentiment regularly
While understanding what makes employees happy is important, measuring their happiness is equally as important. An EX strategy should be measured at regular intervals. This means doing away with lengthy and complex annual surveys and instead tracking and measuring employee sentiment more frequently through pulse surveys, an essential feature in any modern intranet.
As they are shorter and more regular, pulse surveys typically achieve higher participation. They also allow HR and comms professionals to ask the right people the right questions at the right times, and to make employees feel comfortable sharing their true feelings when anonymity is needed.
Questions that can be asked through pulse surveys include:
- How fulfilled do you feel in your role?
- Do you find your work meaningful?
- Do you enjoy our company culture?
- What factors (if any) impact your happiness at work?
- What changes would improve your happiness at work?
Sharing pulse survey results and actions through your internal comms platform helps employees to understand that the data collected is being put to good use, that they are being listening to, and that action is being taken to improve things.
Happy ever after?
Internal communicators and HR professionals aren’t psychologists and they don’t have all of the answers: nobody expects them to, although it may sometimes feel like that. Being happy at work is a basic employee expectation, however, and given the turbulence of recent years, it’s a demand that may become even more important in future. With the right support in place, bolstered by a robust multichannel internal communications strategy that reaches every employee, comms and HR teams can monitor and stabilize the base level of happiness within their organizations.