Who cares?

How many of us feel happy at work? All the time? Most of the time? If you are responsible for others, are your people happy at work? Is it a realistic expectation?


I really enjoy seeing people around me happy at work, and going into other workplaces where people feel good about their company. Yet so many complain about work, want to leave, and spend time every day looking at seek.com.au.


And when people are unhappy at work their output is not great, and they can bad-mouth your business. Your staff are your biggest advertisers and there can be serious repercussions if they don’t have respect for your company. A bad reputation can cost in many ways – lost business and lost employees. With steep recruitment, lost opportunities and lost knowledge at stake, ensuring employees have respect for their day job is vital.


What can we do to ensure our people are happy at work?


Research has shown that caring about others makes us happy.


My niece Melina loves her job. She is organising to bring 30 disadvantaged/special needs children from around Australia and New Zealand to the Gold Coast for an all-expenses paid holiday.


Think she works for a charity? Wrong? A theme park? Think again. Melina works for a timeshare company and is one of a growing number of employees determined to put back into the community. So, with the support of her CEO, she set up Wishes by Wyndham, a program to put back into the community, rounded up an internal team of volunteers and set about engaging staff, suppliers, customers and the media to join her in delivering a Dream Day for underprivileged and seriously ill youngsters. Those working on the project describe it as a highlight and other staff can’t volunteer fast enough to get involved.


“People are so proud of what we are doing as a business and are talking about it proudly, both inside and outside work. The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Melina says.


The phrase “staff engagement” has been bandied around a lot in recent times. But what does it really mean? The truth is, you don’t need to be a multinational company or throw wads of cash around to make a positive impact on morale at any business.


Communicating your mission or vision is one thing. Living it is another. Seeking the label of “employer of choice” does not come easily these days and it is one area where size definitely doesn’t matter.


With a looming employment shortage and good staff in short supply, the tables are turning on some employers: it is becoming a seller’s market. Prospects are now often interviewing their potential bosses to decide whether they want to work for them, rather than the choice being in the hands of the employer.


Today’s recruits are picky and have certain needs they want met before they will accept any offer. Remuneration is no longer the only driver. A key question is what an organisation does socially – and that no longer refers to after-work drinks! What this generation wants to know is how your company puts back into the environment and community in areas it does business.


Melina believes the key to success is ensuring any program is embraced at the highest level of a business, that a business supports a cause that is relevant to their organisation, clients or staff and that the HR policies support the program. “The biggest rewards will be seen when the relationship is about more than just a financial investment,” she says.


Ongoing communication to staff is vital. A strong community partnership also allows opportunities to enhance relationships with other stakeholders such as clients and suppliers, and may also provide media opportunities. But this should not be the only motivation or measure of success.


As with any happy union, if you select your partner carefully, work hard at your relationship and celebrate your success then your partnership can run like a dream. Or in Melina’s case, a Dream Day.


Eve Ash is a psychologist, and is managing director of Seven Dimensions and co-producer with Peter Quarry (Ash.Quarry Productions) of the video Kangaroo: How to be happy at work. www.7dimensions.com.au

Watch the video


To read other postings on People Problems click here.


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