The Business Imperative
I have been researching for the past two years the staggering all-time high, of unhappiness across not just North America, but also globally. According to Gallup. despite job market opportunities, millions of workers are silently quitting or just opting out, despite the backdrop of a looming recession.
Employee disengagement and unhappiness is very worrisome, and year over year, it’s getting worse not better.
This is a serious business issue as engaged workers drive 23% higher profits, compared to employees who are not engaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, equal to 11% of global GDP (Gallup).
In July of 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed that the job market has an abundance of jobs however, the voluntary resignations are sky rocketing as millions of workers leave their jobs.
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 report, found that employees are experiencing increased rates of unhappiness and engagement. Sixty percent of people reported being emotionally detached at work and 19% as being miserable. Only 33% reported feeling engaged — and that is even lower than 2020.
In the U.S. 50% of workers are feeling stressed at their jobs on a daily basis, 41% as being worried, 22% as sad, and 18% angry.
This USA research also mirrors our own research in Canada that 20-30% of employees start their day feeling sad or angry.
I remember being in an elevator pre-Covid with my business partner and a VP of HR, came into the elevator, and simply asked : Are you happy? I recall everyone, stopping dead in their tracks and reflecting, or feeling uncomfortable – who would think that just three words could invoke such reflection and conversation.
How often do C-Suite leaders ask this simple raw question that opens up discovery and mindfulness?
I recently was speaking with Jenny Alfandary, CEO of Westario, an Ontario Energy Company, who shared that she is often starting her employee conversations asking the simple question of: Are you Happy?
What flows from simplicity is often increased empathy and connections that build stronger trust and social ties.
Such simplicity can be liberating – especially when there is genuine authenticity in the conversation and a willingness to explore and make changes.
What we know is that despite more work from home flexibility, increased time off policies, and shorter work weeks, worker disengagement and unhappiness has persisted year over year.
So What’s The Big Gap?
First its’ not just the hours, work-life balance, or workplace location that leave workers dissatisfied. What matters is how they experience that work, in other words how they are managed, treated and coached.
Gallup research has found that the number one reason for job dissatisfaction is “unfair treatment at work.” This means that the lack of a culture that emphasizes respect, diversity and inclusiveness, community, and contribution acknowledgement as mature operating practices will continue to experience employee brain drain. Gallup’s reports mistreatment by coworkers, inconsistent compensation, corporate policies, to biases and favouritism are top reasons for “unfair treatment”.
In addition, beyond unfair treatment, job dissatisfaction correlates with lack of manager support, unclear communication from management, and unreasonable time pressures – all are leading indicators to burnout and job dissatisfaction.
Management Leadership On Employee Wellness Matters More Than Ever
“The role of the manager is really important in well-being,” Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing at Gallup, told CNBC. “Their first job is to make sure the work-related things are right — people know what their role is, they get recognized when they do good work, they feel cared about at work and have a chance to develop in the future, they can see where they’re headed in the organization. If you can get those sorts of things right, you start building trust. And when you have trust, you can open the door for having broader discussions around wellbeing.”
Beyond the work focused elements, managers need to seek out consistent, meaningful conversations with the employees they manage, Harter said: “They need to know about their goals, discuss their goals, and be involved in setting their goals. They need to know something about each person’s strengths to shorten the distance between them, and they need to know something about what’s going on in that work-life blend.”
“The things that tend to drive employee engagement and wellbeing tend to be a bit situational, and managers are in the best position to understand each person’s situation and to coach them in the right kind of way,” said Harter. “I think that’s really the reason why organizations need to focus a lot more on moving to a model of coaching manager, not just delegating manager, but a coaching manager that’s in touch with their people.”
According to Harter, for organizations that want to focus on better management, the first step is simple:
“We need to teach managers to have at least one meaningful conversation every week with each person they manage.”
Beyond that, employers should redefine managers’ roles and expectations, emphasizing their essential role in fostering the workplace experience. They should also provide the training, tools, resources, and development that managers will need to meet those expectations. Additionally, employers need to create evaluation mechanisms that will measure managers’ ability to meet these expectations, and indicate which areas they need more coaching in, as well as provide managers with their own structures of support, so that burnout does not easily cascade throughout an entire organization.
How To Close The Great Resignation Gap?
The facts speak for themselves. The bottom line is that workers are not happy, nor engaged. We now know that table stakes are not enough like: remote work options, schedule flexibility, training and education benefits, fitness benefits, etc.
What we are seeing is the Great Resignation rages on, and silent quitting is accelerating, so how do employers find ways to attract and retain talent – everything is pointing to better management, improved communication, and most importantly genuine authentic communication which builds deep trust making bonds.
This is all very changeable — so lets get on with it and ask every day, How are you feeling? or Are you happy? and genuinely listen. These are not touchy feely questions – mindfulness is a business imperative to support employee engagement practices — motivated employees need to know their work is making a difference and be treated fairly with genuine respect.
As leaders how do you keep a vigilant focus on employee happiness and track productivity improvements to demonstrate your employee voices not only are heard, but actionable outcomes are advancing so everyone feels the happiness vibrations.
Happiness can spread like a virus so planting the cultural ingredients and ensuring the right management is leading is key. No one wants to work for a leader that does not have a strong genuine spirit, and heart.
Humanity is rising up. Happiness, will in time, be a corporate measure that publicly traded companies will need to report on. Looking at your current operating practices that do annual employee satisfaction surveys is no longer relevant in a world where meaningful conversations are needed more frequently – more than ever – and daily patterns are needed that predict futures.
My next blog will focus on another dimension of happiness which is building courage in cultures vs. fear for speaking up and having practices that support employees feeling that they can speak up, whether about organizational problems, unethical behavior or even just to contribute their knowledge and creative ideas. Without these genuine capabilities, they generally either leave or decrease their effort, while suffering in silence.
I will also discuss how AI innovations can improve happiness intelligence and provide a happiness growth advantage. After all, my role as a Forbes Thought Leader is to advance AI knowledge for board directors and C-levels.
Board Director and CEO Questions:
1.) Do you have a deep strategy for happiness?
2.) How are you measuring happiness? and
3.) How happy is your board director communication dynamics (are you a team) and equally applies to the CEO for reflection?
So keep following me and spreading the word – we have much to do to ensure that we turn the tides on The Great Resignation and silent quitting.