HR expert Sue Tumelty, founder and executive director of The HR Dept, shares her insight
Are happy employees normally productive ones?
Sue Tumelty (ST): “Happy employees are normally more productive –research carried out by Warwick University in 2014 backs this up. Happiness was found to give a 12% spike in productivity. Happy staff can be more engaged, hardworking and motivated, while being unhappy at work, whatever the cause, can damage productivity.”
Can factors outside of work contribute to employee unhappiness?
ST: “Of course, and this too affects attitude, mood and work. Unfortunately, throughout our lives, things make us unhappy from time to time, ranging from issues with health and wellbeing to relationship problems. Even news events can affect how we feel. It would be naïve to think that unhappiness does not impact our work. In fact, the Warwick University study found that unhappy people were 10% less productive.”
What work-related factors can make staff unhappy?
ST: “Many things, some more than others, but if they affect a few team members then morale can dip significantly. Causes range include poor physical working environment, tools and equipment, rude customers and lack of training or promotion opportunities. Staff can also feel very unhappy if their opinions aren’t listened to. If you’re not careful, minor frustrations can soon lead to staff leaving.”
Any other reasons why staff become unhappy at work?
ST: “Poor relationships with colleagues or breakdowns in relationships. Managers must remain observant and act before things escalate. Sometimes high-performing, competitive employees can be dismissive of others, while others can be guilty of bullying, which is unacceptable and must be tackled immediately. Staff don’t have to like each, but they must work together in a friendly and professional way.”
What about bad management?
ST: “It too can also cause unhappiness, of course. One of the biggest complaints raised by unhappy employees is poor communication from their bosses. And most employees don’t like to be micro-managed, while not being given clear instruction can also create frustration. Some managers have unrealistic expectations, while some just aren’t very pleasant. Staff must feel supported, valued, recognised and rewarded if they are to remain happy and productive.”
Why is good communication so important?
ST: “We’re social beings; we enjoy communicating; it helps to build trust and strong relationships. Regular meetings – formal and informal – both with groups of employees and as ‘one-to-ones’, provide a platform for open communication. Employees should feel able to talk about things that make them unhappy, with solutions found where possible.”
What about problems outside of work?
ST: “Good employers are supportive. They normally know a little about their employee’s lives outside of work, and being supportive during difficult times can make a big difference. Having to balance professional and family responsibilities can create unhappiness, which is when being a flexible employer can really help.”
How else can I ensure that my employees are productive?
ST: “You must create the right work environment and culture. Work is serious, but it must also be fun to an extent – otherwise why would people look forward to coming to work? Give people the necessary knowledge and experience, providing training when necessary. And give them the equipment and tools they need. Employees must know what you expect of them, while feeling supported and valued. You need to recognise their contribution, remember to thank them, and reward them if possible when they go above and beyond or do exceptional things.”
• Sue Tumelty is the founder and executive director of The HR Dept, which provides HR support to SMEs via a nationwide network of 60 local offices.