Employee happiness, engagement, and well-being are all words that are thrown around but when you start asking questions you realise nobody has an answer.
The other day I was talking to an HR person who was going on about employee happiness and I asked the question, "How happy do you want them to be? How happy should they be?" She just looked at me.
The answer to this is easy.
Employees should be as happy as it is justified by their current circumstances.
These circumstances are influenced by millions of things in which most HR or organisations are not in charge.
The one thing organisations can influence is how much employees love to work there. Many times managers and leaders say "People don't love to work" or "People don't love their work or workplace". If you look beneath you actually find that:
The problem is not that employees don't love their companies, it is that companies don't love them back.
Research has proven over and over again that we are emotional creatures yet, all I hear in organisations is that "business and business don't get emotional". Ok, we won't but if you want people to be happy and engaged aren't those emotions?
We have all been there (I hope) when we found a place we felt it loved us.
Maybe it was the team that was cohesive and just clicked making us feel we belong. They were our tribe and we worked hard because we loved them!
Maybe it was the company who showed us love with its benefits or actions towards our communities when they built a school in the neighbourhood. Maybe we felt its love through the development program they offered and grew us as professionals and as people. Maybe it was through their bonus system they showed us that we are cared for and appreciated.
Maybe it was the leader or the manager who paid attention to us when our marriage broke down or our children were sick. Maybe we felt their love when they mentored us for years because they believed in us even when we didn't believe in ourselves. Maybe that love was conveyed by the simple act of standing up for us when the higher management wanted to cut our bonus. Maybe I felt the love when I was sexually harassed and I couldn't tell anyone so I didn't show up for work (misconduct) but he came to me and checked what was really happening because he knew it was out of my character. That was the time when I felt love when he had no evidence to fire the guy for harassing me but he placed me in a different department and did not punish me for not showing up for work. He believed me.
Maybe I felt the love when I messed up big time and instead of telling me off or ending up in HR, I was coached to learn from my mistakes and handle the consequences of my actions.
Maybe it was the time when I told HR I was not happy and instead of defending himself he asked the question "What makes you feel this way?"
Employees will be as happy as it is justified by the love you show them. There will be millions of things they want and you cannot provide. That is reality. But you know what? If you listened to me when I was having a difficult time I will forgive you for not being able to grant my request for working from home.
PS: Most of our love at work is within our team and between our direct manager or leader. They are the ones that can make us feel loved or unloved.