Help Your Team Feel Happy at Work (It’s Good for Your Business)

By Robert Half December 19, 2016 at 6:20pm

You’d like to think that your employees are happy at work and feeling satisfied in their jobs. But do you know for certain if those things are true? There’s a good chance they might not be, according to research by our company. IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.®, a first-of-its-kind study, suggests that professionals who work in the fields of accounting, finance and financial services have lower levels of workplace happiness compared to employees in other industries.

Robert Half partnered with London-based Happiness Works to conduct the research. Together, we evaluated the happiness levels of more than 12,000 working professionals across the United States and Canada. Several leading experts on workplace happiness also contributed to the research.

The good news for employers is that the research found most professionals are happy at work, in general. On a happiness scale of 0-100, they score 71. However, some specific groups of workers fall below that mark — including accounting, financial services and finance professionals. In fact, the latter group ranked last for on-the-job happiness. Finance professionals also have the lowest level of interest in their work, according to the IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® study.

Accounting and financial services professionals had low rankings in these areas, as well, compared to industries such as marketing and creative, legal, and technology. They also tend to have higher stress levels than some of the other groups featured in the study. However, a bright spot for finance professionals is that they have the lowest stress levels at work, behind technology professionals.

You can’t mandate employee happiness, but you can help increase it

Even though you can’t control every element that contributes to whether your employees feel happy at work, it is possible to create conditions at your company that allow happiness and positivity to flourish. Understanding what drives happiness for your team members is an important first step toward creating this type of corporate culture.

Outlined below are the number-one drivers of happiness for professionals who work in the accounting, finance and financial services industries, respectively.

Accounting professionals report that they want to feel appreciated for the work they do.

As a manager, you know that sincere and consistent employee recognition is essential to keeping up morale, improving retention and creating a more engaged workforce that produces higher-quality work. But when workloads rise and everyone is pushing hard to meet deadlines, it’s easy to forget to express timely and sincere appreciation to your employees for their contributions.

Finance professionals say they want to have a sense of accomplishment from their work.

The IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® study found that 26 percent of all workers feel that they have few opportunities to be creative on the job. And 23 percent say they wield little or no control over their work. Empowering your finance staff members to make decisions on their own, or with minimal direction from you, can help to fuel their sense of accomplishment at work. When they truly own a task, they will be more likely to see it through to success — and feel good about their achievement.

Another strategy: Consider giving finance professionals the ability to work on creative assignments that allow them to apply their expertise in new ways, and add value to the business and solve problems. For example, you might suggest that they use business analytics tools to explore financial data more deeply and uncover new insights that management can use for decision making. Or you could encourage them to collaborate with other departments, like human resources or IT, to find ways to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

Financial services professionals report that having pride in their organization is their top driver for workplace happiness.

According to the IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® research, workers who feel proud of their organizations are three times more likely to be happy at work than employees who don’t. The study also found that workers who do not feel pride in the organization are likely to leave their organization within the coming year; only professionals who felt they did not have a good match with their employer were more likely to leave.

One way to help financial services professionals feel pride in the organization is by including them in discussions about the firm’s performance and goals — and, more important, helping them to understand how their contributions have an impact on business success.

A recent survey by our company found that more than half of professionals (53 percent) wish they had insight on how their day-to-day duties make a difference to the organization. Staff meetings, performance reviews and regular check-ins all provide opportunities to communicate this valuable information to your employees.

Why focus on improving employee happiness?

The findings from the IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® study suggest that workplace happiness is pivotal to organizational success. And, according to the research report, taking steps to help promote worker happiness can create real benefits for the business because:

Happy employees are more resilient and loyal.

Happy employees are more likely to support and work to achieve organizational goals. Plus, if your team members are happy at work, they’ll be more inclined to stay with your firm for the long term — even when the business experiences rough patches.

Happy employees do better work.

Many studies show that happiness positively impacts the quality and quantity of work at both the individual and team level. In addition, happier employees tend to be more innovative and creative.

Happy employees are healthier.

Employees who are burned out or chronically frustrated are not only likely to feel unhappy on the job, but also will be more prone to illness and absenteeism. So, be sure to give them the support they need to stay healthy and engaged and maintain work-life balance.

For more results from our research, and additional insights on the importance of increasing employees' job satisfaction, download the IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® report.

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