Employee happiness – an elusive quest?

HRM looks beyond the traditional HR ‘engagement’ theory to investigate the science behind happiness at work and the limitations of the effect of HR practices on individual employee engagement. The results could surprise you.

Cultivating a healthy and happy workforce brimming with motivated and engaged employees has traditionally fallen to HR. But are we trying to achieve the impossible?
Organisations need to cut themselves some slack by acknowledging that individual employees are partly accountable for their own engagement levels, said Stacey Ashley, founder and director of Ashley Coaching & Consulting
“Traditional engagement tends to be quite organisationally focused – for example, an employee might say something like ‘My manager encourages a good work/life balance’. This type of positioning is all about the organisation,” Ashley said.
“But when we’re looking at happiness at work, there’s a higher degree of personal accountability involved, because at the end of the day I’m actually responsible for my own happiness at work. Someone else can’t ‘make’ me happy or engaged.”
The organisation must still implement programs, policies and strategies to facilitate engagement, but happiness in the workplace also requires employees to take an active role.
“Happiness at work is a bigger concept than engagement; it’s about providing the resources the individual needs to support themselves and develop their engagement. The employee has to be part of that process,” she explained.
“You’re effectively helping them to understand how they can bring out their best.”
One strategy is to coach your line managers to then coach your employees, to help them recognise the role they play in creating their own outcomes – and recognise that they can make a difference for themselves.
For instance, a staff member who feels underappreciated and undervalued may come to the conclusion that the company doesn’t care about its employees.
“You might help that employee realise that they thrive on feedback as it builds up their confidence, but when they’re not getting any feedback, they feel like the organisation is terrible at communicating and showing appreciation,” Ashley said.
“But if the employee knows that’s what they need to perform at their best, then you can encourage them to go out there and get some feedback themselves. You need to help them to identify the resources they have within themselves by asking, ‘What else do you need to be able to do your best or achieve your best?’” 

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