By Mariam Azmy

For any organization, happy employees are an asset, contributing to healthier bottom lines and greater growth. A 2015 research by the University of Warwick proved that a happier workforce is 12% more productive than others. However, the eternal question facing HR leaders is – how can employee satisfaction be cultivated in a way that people develop lasting loyalty and feel connected to the company’s objectives?

Frankly, there are no shortcuts or quick fixes on this route. A happy office cannot be established by organizing a yoga class or embellishing the space with funky bean bags and handing out stress balls. Perhaps a ‘free pizza’ day or providing discounts on movie tickets might perk up a dull day at work but does that actually amount to job satisfaction? Can it guarantee that your staff won’t put in their papers if they get the next best opportunity?  These are questions that every organization must ponder over.

The first step towards creating a happy office is to define and establish a culture of happiness. This culture should be organic, inherent and authentic, not forced or cosmetic.  Happiness at work does not tantamount to employees filling their social media feeds with #ilovemyjob hashtags. On the contrary, it runs far deeper; the small, subtle gestures and genuine smiles and pride in work that no research or study can adequately measure.

The much-talked-about trend of The Great Resignation would probably not have occurred if the workforce was truly satisfied and happy with their jobs. This proves that happiness is a lot more intrinsic and to make an actual difference, CPOs need to take a deep dive into what really satisfies employees and not just indulge in superfluous (albeit effective in the short-term) measures that seem they are ticking off the HR initiatives checkbox.

The pandemic has taught us many lessons, the foremost being that most professionals are looking for is security.  A secure employee is a happy employee. It doesn’t mean you allow complacency to set in but an environment where a team is constantly on the edge, fearing the reaction of their superiors is not exactly conducive to great work.

More importantly, a happy workplace offers an environment for candid, transparent conversations. CPOs should set up systems where people can feel confident to bring up controversial opinions and suggestions without the fear of being judged or their jobs being compromised. Constructive dialogues and an exchange of ideas should be entrenched in the company culture, as listening to your staff is as important as talking to them.

To nurture an empowering and positive environment, managements have to commit to employee happiness. Consistent appreciation, a system to identify and foster the strengths of each staff member, devoting resources for mental health, creating avenues for growth of brilliant employees while supporting the weaker ones are means and measures that build confidence among the workforce. Of course, all of these require time, patience and effort. A CPO should be actively dedicated in creating a conducive environment that nurtures growth and happiness and also involve the top management in the process. Gradually, this will become part of the company culture that will organically attract the best and most sincere talent.  

We live in times of extreme uncertainties with technological changes, environmental conditions and social unrest contributing to high stress levels, therefore, the role of an empathetic CPO becomes all the more important as s/he is the bridge between the leaders and staff. Workforce management is an art and a skill that requires dollops of understanding and a firm belief that happiness has to be a way of life in an organization and not just an agenda on the HR manual.