Why Workplace Happiness Matters (And 3 Ways to Cultivate it in Your Business)

by | Mar 27, 2023 8:45:00 AM | Strategy

I recently attended the Grand Rapids Econ Club luncheon that featured Jon Clifton, the CEO of Gallup and the grandson of the creator of the StrengthsFinder (personality test), Don Clifton.  One of the most striking facts he presented was the percentage of employees that were actively engaged in a company, versus those that were not. 

It may not come as a surprise to you, but I was shocked to learn that in most companies, it was less than 20%. And for those of you who don’t know, general unhappiness and disengagement with a workplace is about to become a very big deal.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a summary of in depth analysis of the United State’s workforce. As of 2022, there were approximately 10 million job openings but only 6 million people chasing those jobs. 

As you already know, we’re experiencing historically low unemployment, which increases workforce mobility. This shallower talent pool makes it harder to land the right person. Based on the global research done by Gallup, how are you going to get those people to stay engaged and working for you? How do you create a workplace that promotes engagement, longevity, and happiness?

Younger Workers Are Feeling Left Out

An interesting blog from Skynova looked at Gen Z and Millennial workers to see how they were coping with our new reality of hybrid and remote work. 

For Generation X and above, this is a brave new world we are trying to negotiate. While for younger workers, remote work may be all they have ever known. For them, it’s not new, it’s normal — and many of them aren’t fans of the situation.

If you were employed before the COVID-19 pandemic, you likely have a feel for how work used to be. Water cooler talk, in-person meetings, company outings — you name it. You experienced the company culture in person.

As our client, Josh Barker, CEO of City Innovations, puts it, “A business’s culture and community happens in the ‘in between’ where you're walking to a meeting, or you're sitting by someone, or going to lunch.”

Many younger workers don’t have that. However, they still want to feel important, valued, and a part of the company culture.

The challenge for the modern business owner is to accomplish that while still navigating a more remote or hybrid, post-COVID world.

It turns out that there are three components to work life that you can control to set the environment you want and create a happy workplace.


1. Workplace Culture

When a company’s values and expectations are implemented throughout the workplace, it helps to form your company culture.

Is your company autocratic or empowering? Do your employees have input, or is it all top down instructions? 

Many younger workers express that they want to feel included — not just in decisions, but in the social aspects of the company life too. 

Do they get to decide where you are going, what activities you’ll be doing, or the date or time? The idea of forming a true “fun committee” really is legit. Give them a budget and some loose guidelines and watch the magic happen! Our younger team members have set up some of the best meetings and outings (and they are things I never would’ve considered!). 

Think about any remote meetings you’ve recently attended. Do your workers engage in banter, or share what is going on in their lives? Do the meeting leaders make it a point to be sure everyone is heard?

There is room to develop socialization and company culture in any workplace environment. But with many businesses adopting a remote or hybrid sense of working, it often gets lost in daily tasks and heads-down work.

Make time in your meetings for human connection, and work to instill the vision of your company’s culture throughout your meeting — all of your workers will benefit.


2. Workplace Freedom

With much of Generation Z fairly fresh from school, many of them are just leaving an environment where they were encouraged to try new things and think outside the box. There was room to make mistakes, learn, and then improve. 

When you provide an atmosphere where workers can take initiative and make mistakes, you create an environment of trust. Does your company have a failure statement? Think through the last time someone made an honest mistake and how you reacted to it. 

When a mistake is seen as a teachable moment, it turns a negative opportunity into a positive way to grow skills. Use it as an opportunity to connect and grow your workers into what you need them to be. This creates trust — and trust is a form of connection. 


3. Workplace Pay

As we age, the amount we earn becomes more important. For many younger workers, pay is important, but not significantly more so than having an awesome place to work. As they age, start families, or begin to think about retirement, priorities change and pay becomes more important.

By creating an environment where younger workers will want to work (while also being paid well), you’ll be poised to retain more of your workforce as their priorities change.

Good pay will go from being seen as a perk to essential, while company culture may begin to take a backseat. Once a worker makes that mental transition, being paid well while being in a happy workplace will be really hard to leave.Creative Studio Name LinkedIn Article Cover Image (8)

How 1 Bold Step Does It

When my business partner, Adam Clarke, and I founded 1 Bold Step we wanted it to be different. Not just for our clients, but for our employees too. 

Over the years, we have transitioned from working in our office, to completely remote work (during the height of the pandemic), and now to a hybrid model — all while maintaining the essential core of our company culture. 

We provide freedom with boundaries and encourage our employees to try new ways of doing things. If it works, we share what was learned with everyone else. If it doesn’t, we all learn from that too.  

Group accountability is also big. Team members are available for each other. One of our tools, Slack, is always churning with conversations. Most are work-related, but some just for fun.

Fantasy football league, March Madness tournaments, company lunches, and team outings provide fodder for a lot of laughs too. It's just a few examples of how we stay engaged with each other. We also celebrate milestones like births, marriages, anniversaries, and birthdays. We are a close work family. 

That work-family feeling also has a larger implication for trust between teammates. We’re transparent, trusting, hardworking, and responsible to each other. Pride in our work and kinship with others is a great combination for getting high-quality work done on time.


All You Have To Do Is Ask

How do you go about making these changes, or determining where your company culture sits?  

Ask your employees what they want, what they like, and what they don’t like. If you already have a culture of trust, you are going to get some of the best feedback you can get. And if you don’t have that culture of trust, I suggest starting with Pat Lencioni’s book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s a great starting point!

If you let your employees show you how to create a happy workplace, the benefits will be there for everyone, regardless of their age — plus, your company will see more success too.

About 1 Bold Step

At 1 Bold Step we believe that everything can be more efficient, but especially marketing. Acting as an extension of a client’s marketing department (onsite or virtually), we help create systems, order, and accountability. With a focus on increasing sales and proving return on marketing investment, we’re determined to change marketing from overhead to value add. 


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