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Want a Happy Workforce? Hire Happy People.

Performance coach Chris Cook recently surveyed 85 employers and found that very few are practicing a "Performance-Happiness Model" with workers. While larger employers are focusing more on this issue than smaller employers, most employers are missing out on opportunities to increase competitive advantage and profit. Those that do address the connection between happiness and productivity are working with managers and supervisors more than with the other employees.

Cook teaches managers and employees to prioritize with a new set of values -- trust, recognition and pride. According to the expert, people who are the happiest at work, compared to unhappy ones, take 10 times less sick leave, are twice as productive, stay twice as long on the job and believe that they are achieving their potential. The "Performance-Happiness Model" employees feel they fit into the workplace culture and are committed to engage in that culture. They also possess confidence in themselves and their jobs.

As positive examples, Cook points to cutting-edge employers such as Facebook, Apple and Google. Cook says they have "a culture of helping people achieve their full potential . . . motivating by mastery, autonomy and purpose, where people are able to grow and get better at what they do." Cook claims that employers should focus more on the idea of achieving goals by looking at people's strengths and how they can flourish. According to Cook, "Happiness is a mind-set that enables employees to work to their full potential." John Darling for the Tidings, "Work performance tied to attitude," (Jan. 11, 2012).

Commentary and Checklist

Studies have found that happiness actually improves health. One study found that people with buoyant personality types catch fewer colds than those with less happy or less content personalities. Another study found that people who used positive words to describe their lives lived about 10 years longer than those who used negative words.

While employers can do things to encourage and promote a positive work environment for employees, happiness primarily comes from within. For this reason, hiring an applicant with the idea of transforming him or her into a "happy" employee is never a good idea.

Employers who strive to hire happy people want to know how to determine this. The best way? Ask them.

Take time during the interview process to see what makes the applicant happy. Are the applicant's answers based on things that you as a manager or supervisor can influence, or are they out of your control? Are the applicant's expectations for the job, or life in general, unreasonable? Some people are never happy, while others find a reason to be happy, even in the face of adversity. Choose qualified candidates who seem genuinely happy in their day-to-day lives.

Here are some things employers can do to foster happy employees:
  • Make employees feel safe. The safer you make employees feel, the more likely they understand that you care about their well-being and not just their productivity.
  • Communicate with your employees. The more meaningful interchanges you have with your employees, the less likely you will experience litigation.
  • Involve your employees with planning. When employers involve employees in the planning process, the employees are more likely to have a stake in their own work and their contributions to the workplace.
  • Consider incentive programs to enhance salaries or provide other financial incentives. Many employers offer extended vacations, sabbatical periods, and tuition reimbursement.
  • Develop the leadership skills of your managers.
  • Develop relationships. Strong personal relationships enhance the happiness level of employees and aid employee retention.
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