Recent workplace trends such as “quiet quitting” and “bare minimum Mondays” have shown that many employees feel disengaged from work. Now, as 2023 draws to a close, some have suggested that this overriding sense of withdrawal and uncertainty – aptly named the “Great Gloom” – will be a major challenge in 2024. Defeat this gloominess by building an internal communications and employee experience strategy focused on employee happiness.
What is the “Great Gloom”
A recent study of employee happiness confirms that workers across every industry are unhappier than ever. Employee happiness has been declining in recent times, but since the start of 2023 it has dropped 10x faster than previous years.
This pervasive sense of discomfort isn’t restricted to the workplace either. Gallup found that 80% of Americans are generally dissatisfied with “the way things are going,” and the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) discovered that Brits are less happy and more anxious now than before the pandemic.
Why are we suffering from this collective gloom? A glance at the news cycle suggests that it may partly stem from geopolitical instability, economic woes, and political turbulence. In our workplaces too, disagreements over pay and working conditions have led to seemingly irreconcilable differences that have gone beyond strikes into this more general sense of apathy and resignation.
Refocusing on employee happiness may help to rejuvenate employee engagement at a time when it’s in decline. This will have a positive impact on productivity, profits, and personal wellbeing.
Why is employee happiness in the workplace important?
Given that full-time employees spend roughly 50% of their waking hours at work, it’s unsurprising that making efforts to increase employee happiness has become a critical part of employee experience (EX) design.
After all, if you’re going to ask people to spend tens of thousands of hours doing an activity (even if you’re also paying them), it’s probably better if you create an environment where they feel good.
Creating happiness is important for many reasons, but let’s begin with the fact that 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.
Although we can’t reduce employee 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 a CEO, 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, most progressive employers now take the view that they also have a holistic duty of care. To the extent that they’re able, organizations want to ensure that people are thriving, regardless of how it improves their performance at work.
This approach is evident in the term “destination employer,” and the pride with which companies routinely celebrate their inclusion in the various “best places to work” lists publicized each year.
14 steps to great internal communications
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 employee 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 do just that.
According to MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trends Study, younger generations especially demand personalized communications, but it is also an expected part of digital life for everyone. Adobe’s Personalization Survey found that over 70% of consumers now expect personalized communication from brands and 76% get frustrated when they don’t get it.
While a certain amount of corporate, top-down communications must reach everyone, creating more targeted messages and empowering employees to customize their experiences will help to reduce the frustration and friction of generic comms. Happiness may depend on feeling that your employer sees you as an individual with needs and preferences too.
A digital workplace that enables an “internet of me” approach to personalized internal comms will present many options for employees and internal communicators.
For example, allowing employees to select and follow topics of interest on the intranet can reinforce a sense of individualism and add meaning to the working day. 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.
For HR and internal communications teams too, being able to create dynamic employee user groups in the intranet allows you to go beyond grouping employees solely by departments or email addresses. 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 facilitate 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 employee experience platform 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, give people and good causes the spotlight, and celebrate company successes.
The good news doesn’t need to be work-related and can include life events that employees are happy to share. 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 a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. This is particularly true when communication only comes from the top down and employees who have something valuable to say aren’t allowed to contribute.
This not only impacts EX negatively, but it also stifles an organization’s progress. Whether your institution is improving products, services, or altering internal processes, gathering employee feedback and listening to employee ideas is essential.
Two-way conversations also provide more opportunities 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.
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 important to employees. Research from Harvard Business Review found that 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 the 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, 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 that happiness is also essential. 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.
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 understand that the data collected is being put to good use, that they are being listened to, and that action is being taken to improve things.
Planning for future employee happiness
Business leaders, internal communicators, and HR professionals aren’t psychologists, let alone politicians with the power to change the economy. They don’t have the answers to changing the circumstances of the “Great Gloom,” 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 the 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.