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The Real Reason Your Employees Aren't Happy at Work - and How to Fix It

Why Pay and Tasks Are No Longer Enough to Attract and Retain Employees

In the modern world, employees are no longer desperate for a source of income, but instead seek jobs that provide meaning, purpose, joy, and growth. However, many businesses are struggling to engage employees, resulting in low levels of employee engagement across the UK and Europe.

How the Mindset of Employees is Changing and Why Businesses Need to Adapt

The mindset of employees is changing, and businesses must adapt accordingly. During the Industrial Revolution, senior leadership teams created a strategic narrative, which was broken down into tasks by mid-management and further into to-do lists by managers. However, involving employees in strategic planning and linking all work to higher objectives is now necessary to provide meaningful work.

Not only does this improve engagement, but it also enhances innovation and collaboration. In today's landscape, technology drives rapid change, and businesses must be innovative to survive. Most of the innovation businesses need comes from team members on the ground, not just senior leaders.

One of the most famous examples of involving employees in the planning process is Google. Google encouraged its employees to take 20% of their work time to focus on personal projects that align with the company's goals. This approach led to some of Google's most successful products, such as Gmail and Google Maps, created by employees during their 20% time.

Google also hosts a company-wide event called "Googlegeist" each year, where employees can share ideas and feedback with company leadership. This event fosters a culture of innovation and collaboration at Google.

By involving employees in the bigger picture and giving them a sense of ownership over their work, Google has improved innovation and engagement levels among its workforce.

Top-down objective setting without involving employees doesn't work and makes no sense in the modern business landscape. This structure is still widely used not because it's fit for purpose, but because it's what has always been done.

Three Strategies for Creating a More Meaningful Workplace

To create a more meaningful workplace, businesses can do the following.

  • Create a clear vision and mission statement that is easy to remember and everyone knows. This ensures the essence of your company is known by all and that work done is linked to the bigger picture.

  • Involve employees in the planning process. Involving employees in planning allows them to share ideas and insights, link their work to the bigger picture, and feel that they are being listened to and influence the bigger picture. As previously highlighted it also unlocks innovation in your company.

  • Make quarterly planning a must for everyone. Ensure that every member of your business is involved in planning at least once every 12 weeks. There are 2 major benefits to this. Firstly humans can only keep fixated on a goal for around 12 weeks until they start to go off track. So it keeps people aligned on the right tasks. Secondly, it gives employees a voice which is proven to drive up engagement levels.

It Requires Effort and Time

Why haven't all businesses implemented this approach? Because it takes time and effort, and businesses tend to run at or close to capacity. This is the approach Blockbuster took in response to the rise of the internet and video streaming. The point is that it takes effort and time, but improvements in productivity, collaboration, innovation, and employee retention will pay dividends. Businesses that don't make these changes will constantly struggle with low productivity and people issues while others thrive.

In conclusion, businesses must structure their operations differently to provide employees with the meaning and purpose they seek. The Industrial Revolution model of senior leadership teams creating a strategic narrative no longer works. Businesses must involve their employees in planning and work as a team to unlock innovation and agility and attract and retain employees.

A great starting point is to have a clear, easy-to-understand one-page strategy that employees can see every day. Recognising that many businesses struggle to do this, we created a step-by-step guide so you can get yours done.

Mike Jones Better Happy Founder

Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.

He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on improving employee happiness. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'

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