Where your experience becomes your business.

Part One: Are the Happiest Employees REALLY the Most Productive Ones?

Let’s start off with a quiz. True or false: Happy employees are productive employees? Of course, it really doesn’t matter how you answer that question because your answer determines your approach to managing people. Here are a couple more questions for you: Can you be happy and unproductive? I think that if I spent the entire day at my cubicle playing Counter Strike and no one said anything to me, then I’d be pretty happy, but not very productive. Can I be productive and not happy? I think most of us have worked with someone who was a “Mr. Grumpy-Pants” to deal with or just plain prickly to be around, but they got the job done. They were just a highly productive person. The real question you need to answer is: Are people satisfied or are they engaged? Companies have spent a lot of time, money and effort on employee satisfaction surveys. I have no problem with those as long as you understand the two truths about these types of surveys.

Part One: Are the Happiest Employees REALLY the Most Productive Ones?

First, the minute you ask someone a question about anything, you've immediately raised their expectation of whatever subject you’re talking about. For instance, if I were asked a question on an employee satisfaction survey that says 'my manager is fair' – I might have never thought about that before. Now I start looking at my manager wondering, “Are you fair?” Or if you ask me about my benefit package and the combination of benefits I have. Then you start asking me whether or not that benefit package is competitive. I had never thought of it that way before, so now I start looking around to see whether or not my benefit package is competitive.  If you start to ask me questions about my working conditions I may think, “You know, the lighting in here is not to my standards and there seems to be a vent that blows directly on me all day long. No, my working conditions are substandard.” Of course, now you have raised my level of expectation with that employee satisfaction survey. Now I am assuming because you asked me about it and I responded, then you are going to fix it! You must be planning to do something about it, because you wouldn’t have asked otherwise. That’s just human nature.

For example, I'm the middle son of three boys, and we are very close in age. My mom would make the world’s best oatmeal raisin cookies. My dad absolutely loved them! My mom would say, “Okay boys, I just made your father some cookies. You guys can't touch them until he gets home.” All I’m thinking is, “There's cookies?” I didn’t even know there were any cookies until she said it. So now my quest for the balance of the afternoon was, “Where are the cookies?” My brothers and I had a competition to find them. So that, in a nutshell, is one truth about employee satisfaction surveys.

The second truth about these types of surveys is a basic HR principle: Just because you remove a bad, that doesn't make a good. It just makes a "not bad." Just because I don’t have the flu anymore doesn’t make me healthy. It just means I don’t have the flu. So when we talk about engaged employees, the difference is between being satisfied and engaged. Engaged employees seem to be motivated to accomplish things, but are they happy? Would they be productive if they were engaged? Probably so. There are different elements of engagement.

I’d like to sum this up with an excellent example from Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsHe points out three elements that help create a motivational environment that would engage a workforce. Those three elements would be autonomy, mastery and purpose:

·      Autonomy has to do with how I am managed. People will join companies but they'll quit their managers. So that autonomy piece becomes, “How much control do I have over what I do? How much say do I have in the policies and practices that affect me?”

·      Mastery is my opportunity to get really good at what I do best. So, structurally in an organization, are there training and education opportunities? Are there experiences or projects that I can get engaged in that would help sharpen my skill set?

·      Purpose is what I really think we should focus on when it comes to engaged employees, because that identifies the ‘why’ and if we get that right, a whole lot of other things become a lot more clear. 

In Part Two: Are the Happiest Employees REALLY the Most Productive Ones? I would like to dig a little deeper and whip a little theory into this subject.

Many thanks to our guest blogger, Rob O'Donnell of solutions 21. Please LIKE us on Facebook and FOLLOW us on Twitter to stay up to date with the lastest blog posts and educational articles. Also, we encourage you to sign up for our free weekly newsletter, which will keep you up to date with all of our informative blog posts. Don't forget to download the free Ex3 Matters eBook, entitled, "Experience Matters," for even more great information and advice.