Redefining HR: Why employees' happiness is the key objective

Director, Human Resources and Corporate Sustainability at Isuzu East Africa, Fredrick Wasike. [File, Standard]

Years ago, the human resources (HR) department - often referred to simply as “personnel”, was primarily charged with keeping records, ensuring companies followed regulations and compliance with the law, and determining wages, compensation packages, and other benefits.

But in the recent past, the HR department has evolved tremendously, thanks to the emergence of technologies that automate much of the work traditionally done by HR professionals.

However, the HR department is yet to achieve its overall objective – employees’ happiness and mental well-being.

Employee engagement has a huge impact on any company’s survival in a competitive market, yet it is something that is often overlooked.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine how HR would function devoid of the employees’ happiness. A 2015 study by the University of Warwick equally concluded that happy employees are 12 per cent more productive than unhappy employees. 

So how can an organisation rejuvenate employee happiness? Here now are the top ten initiatives organisations can adopt to rejuvenate employee happiness.

  1. Rejuvenate Human Resources (HR)

Irrespective of the size and age of the organisation, employee happiness is significantly influenced by the beliefs, behaviours, feelings, satisfaction, engagement, and abilities of those in the human resources department.

It is the department which acquires talent, designs, and implements programmes that foster employee happiness.

When employees are not happy, when customers are not happy, the starting point is to ask if the HR Manager in the organisation is happy. One cannot give happiness that he or she does not have.

Studies have established links between the happiness index of the HR manager and the happiness index of employees.

  1. Lead through purpose and values

Employees ought to know why the organisation they work for exists by internalising its purpose statement.

This is important for harmony in goal setting and performance management purposes. Values define the conduct and behaviour expected of employees.

Knowing about them in advance promotes compliance. Values contribute to employee happiness through reward and recognition. They guide hiring, decision making, conflict resolution and discipline management processes.

  1. Promote work-life integration

Flexibility in working hours and workstations enables employees to meet their personal and work obligations.

At Isuzu EA, for instance, the most popular activity in the employees’ calendar is the “Bring your child to Work Day”. On this day, employees bring along their children to work to learn about Isuzu products and services.  It is usually a day of great entertainment, gifting, fun and dance. In short, employees don’t sign off work to begin life or sign off life to begin work.

  1. Drive technology and innovation

Technology and innovation breed employee happiness and vice versa.

Employees feel happy working for an organisation that is a gold mine for technology-driven ideas and solutions to internal processes and to society.

Innovation simplifies work processes, creates independence in working and nurtures internal intrapreneurs.

Employees cannot be innovative when they are not happy. Despite our best efforts, we cannot force innovation in employees. Employees cannot be innovative when they are feeling overworked, tired, harassed, and undervalued.

  1. Protect employees’ voice

On the other hand, employees can go silent when they feel their voice has been taken away. Leaders should be very afraid when employees go silent.

When employees lack internal channels for voicing their issues, they take to online platforms to vent their frustrations and displeasure. Through the employees’ voices, most organisations have gained insights into employees’ beliefs, feelings, and overall well-being. An article by Forbes Magazine published in January 2019 stated that employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform. It is through addressing such that happiness is built.

  1. Encourage benevolence

A benevolent working environment is one where the organisation is kind to employees and to society generally.

It is one where employees are kind to the organization, helpful to each other, practice goodwill and have well-meaning intentions with their words and actions.

When benevolence is encouraged, it does provide opportunities for employees to volunteer their time, skills, and other resources to support the community.

Studies have numerously established the linkages between organisational benevolence and employees’ well-being and happiness. Benevolent leaders encourage succession planning. They are more compassionate, kind and patient as they inspire team members to take more responsibility and accountability.

7) Foster organisational justice

Justice describes the individual’s and the group’s perception of the fairness of treatment received from an organization.

It remains the foundation of employee happiness and well-being.

As a core value, it defines an organisation’s identity with its stakeholders, both internally and externally. When justice is espoused as a core value of an organisation’s philosophy and enacted through internally consistent management practices, it can build a “culture of justice,” a system-wide commitment that is valuable and unique in the eyes of employees. Justice in the workplace makes employees feel they have some control and predictability over their future with their employer. 

8)  Enhance brand reputation

Generally, employees will not be happy working for an organisation that has a bad reputation in society. This may come from leadership behaviours, the quality of products and services and environmental and social impact. It is therefore crucial to develop trust and integrity with customers.  This is achieved through ethical practices, honesty, accountability, value creation and prioritising quality in products and services. Leaders and owners of organisations that have a strong employer brand get more credibility and respect than those that don’t. The employer brand reputation is increasingly linked to the personal brand of the leadership team and employees.

This helps to secure better goodwill from partners, principals, and customers and raises the brand value of organizations.

9)  Humanise the workplace

Rejuvenating happiness starts with humanising the workplace. Jack Welch says we need to remember the human in human resources. It means remembering that everyone in the organisation is a person first and then a working person second. At the core of these concepts is the value of treating the worker as a human being. When the workplace is humanised, efforts are made to ensure employees enjoy freedom from anxiety and constant fear of loss of employment.

10) Embrace diversity and inclusivity

Lastly, every employer should embrace diversity and inclusivity, which in turn breeds happiness at work. Employees feel happy when they see colleagues include others in projects, celebrations, recognition, communications, and decision-making. Employees desire to see a workplace as a home for all irrespective of age, ethnic background, gender, religion, and professional background. An environment where disability is viewed as a “different ability”. 

A workplace that is equal for all. In all respects, employees want to work for an organisation that cares about their happiness. It is the interactions, comments, feelings, and experiences that collectively determine the level and direction of happiness at work. Happy employees are more engaged, more productive and drive organisational performance.

This is the transforming power of HR - Happiness Rejuvenated. Let’s go for it!

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