Turn Employees From “Satisfied” to Truly “Happy”

December 23, 2014
| ByMike Ryan

What makes an employee happy? We talk a lot about recognition in this blog—being appreciated for what you do by the people you do it with. And while consistent recognition is the key to keeping an employee satisfied, it’s what people feel as they are being recognized that makes them happy. To be truly happy in our work we need to feel an emotional connection to others combined with a sense of personal growth. We need to feel that we are contributing to and within our own “personal society”.

Shawn Achor, author of the best-selling book The Happiness Advantage: the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work says that happiness is the joy we feel as we grow to our potential combined with the realization that our behavior really matters. In other words, we begin to see that we are making a difference.

Recognizing employees reaffirms that sense of personal importance. It reaffirms that we matter. It celebrates success and a feeling of belonging—things that make us feel good about the work that we do and the people we do it with. It makes us happy.

For all of those executives who roll their eyes at soft words like “happiness,” I’ll admit it doesn’t sound like a metric that businesses should be tracking. But hold on. Most companies will measure satisfaction, which to me is the lukewarm cousin of happiness. I’d argue that recognition professionals not be skittish about challenging your organization to set the bar higher—to move employees from being merely satisfied to being truly happy. Instinctually, executives know that satisfied employees are worth their weight in gold. They will agree then that happy employees will be worth even more. That conversation will put a smile on their face.

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