Happiness is not the first thing we specify as a requirement when we are looking for a job, but probably it is one of the most important factors to continue developing professionally in in a certain direction or a company. In recent years, the policies related to creating higher employee satisfaction have become mandatory when building an employer brand. Happiness managers appeared and a community of external experts was created, competent in psychology and people management, who help turn happiness into a tool for business success. They also proved valuable in coping with the social crises, caused by the coronavirus.
Why the satisfaction and happiness has now turned into a key factor for attracting and retaining employees, or has it always been that way?
“It has always been that way for me. The difference is that we lost our values on the way to over-satisfaction and insatiable desire to achieve more and more, and we forgot “why” we do what we do. Less and less managers pay attention to the real needs or lacks, and the employees themselves became ungrateful and demanding, with no understanding that when the give-and-take balance is disturbed, everything falls apart,” says Ana Hira, business consultant.
According to the 2019 Workplace Happiness Report of the Udemy platform, 69% of the employees claim that their current job is their “dream job”. 62% point out that they would work even for smaller payment if they receive a proposal from a company that has a message and a mission that are closer to theirs. “Unfortunately for employers, workplace happiness is a relative emotional state, which is influenced by various aspects of personal life. That is why companies focus on the employees’ emotional connection with them,” comments Vivian Wu, senior analyst at the American consulting company Culture Amp.
What is the situation in Bulgaria? Together with Mihaela Zdravkova from Sirma Group, the business consultant Ani Hira and Lyubov Kirilova from Happiness Academy, we embark on a pursuit of happiness in our work in Bulgaria. What they have in common is that, though in different words, they bring out three key factors for workplace happiness. These are the presence of professional challenges and encouragement to strive for mastery and success, the feeling of “being at home”, and the freedom to express yourself.
Lyubov is a co-founder of Happiness Academy consultancy company, whose methodology is based on the happiness theory of Prof. Raj Raghunathan. “Happy employees bring happy clients, as well as higher profit. There are three key elements of happiness at work: mastery – closeness – autonomy. The first is to feel good at what we are doing and to be recognized for it. If we have a best friend at work, we are 7 times less likely to quit. Last but not least, it is important to feel free in our actions, i.e. managers should not apply “micromanagement”, she explains.
According to Mihaela, a “happy office”, as she calls it, offers all amenities and benefits that make the employer competitive in hiring and retaining people. “The company should hire people who are active and different. It should not save money from employees, so that it can afford more flexible working hours and no overtime work is needed. Happy employees are loyal employees. They build a community that encourages them to feel satisfied and valued, and they express it to the outside, they share it. This is how happiness is branded.”
“I have worked with people who knew that they could have better office space and payment, but they were active, motivated and loyal, because they had a favourable environment, which was also a guarantee for a high level of satisfaction,” Ani adds. She says that building trust, transparency and a sense of belonging of the I-am-at-home type is key to retaining employees. We are a factor of the environment more than the environment affects us, i.e. quality communication truly is what gathers and develops a team. A healthy and good connection is built with regular communication and mutual respect. Building trust to a degree at which you can allow your people to make their own authoritarian and responsible decisions is the right decision,” she says.
According to Lyubov, most measures and activities should be directed toward giving greater freedom and creating a sense of belonging to the company, too, but often the decisions about the activities and the additional benefits are made without seeking the opinion of the employees. That is why she advises employers to understand and follow their teams as much as possible and to develop them according to their pace, and not according to preliminary expectations of interests and ambitions. “People are generators of ideas, and this is the type of people that should be encouraged. Employers should support their creativity by making them feel well – this is where I, the Happiness Manager, intervene again, Mihaela also comments.
She is a supporter of live communication, but she also offers possibilities that encourage people to share their home office – like many Bulgarians have to work in a state of emergency. “I created a group in order to continue our informal communication. We focus only on positive news,” she explains.
“Crisis situations do not imply happiness, but action, communication and adequate measures. Understanding and communication are very important,” Ani says, too. She adds that workplace happiness is measured by “loyalty, dedication, good comments by the employees, as well as by long-lasting client relationships,” and business results depend directly on that. Lyubov concludes that happy people are 3 times more resourceful, and happy salespeople achieve 30% higher results.
“If our intentions and business are “pure”, and if we work hard to build “warm” relations in and outside of the company, I believe that everyone is doomed to a happy and successful business!” Ani concludes. Lyubov smiles: “Happiness can be learned – this is exactly what gives us confidence to move forward.”