FLARE: The Key to Employee Satisfaction and Workplace Happiness
Employee satisfaction / workplace happiness is a hot topic for every organisation. Happier staff lead to higher retention rates, which means less time and money is spent training and recruiting replacements. Which ultimately means running a more profitable business.
Unfortunately, despite renewed interest and emphasis on improving employee happiness, few organisations seem to get it right. The US will lose a whopping $430 billion in revenue by 2030 due to poor talent retention and staff turnover, while the UK will lose £42 billion per annum. The ultimate cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times their annual salary, while soft costs related to ineffective cultural and employee satisfaction drives also add up.
What Is Employee Satisfaction?
Work happiness is a straightforward concept. It refers to a state of enjoyment and a positive attitude towards one's work. Happy people are excited to go to work, enjoy what they do, and are more satisfied and engaged. Workplace happiness naturally impacts productivity and customer satisfaction in a positive way.
Achieving or influencing employee happiness is far from straightforward, however. 50% of employees voluntarily leave their positions within two years. Thousands of workers left their jobs in pursuit of greater job satisfaction following the COVID-19 pandemic. 34% of participants in a recent UK survey said they would rather be unemployed than unhappy at work.
When companies try to create a more supportive or happier workplace, they offer extra incentives like free lunches, entertainment, or access to mental health apps. While ping-pong and casual Fridays do make the working environment more enjoyable, these perks have a real and meaningful impact beyond the surface level. When the office experience was removed during the pandemic, many businesses saw their culture fall apart.
Businesses that want to influence workplace happiness in a positive and lasting way need to do the work to engage and support their staff without the bells and whistles of a trendy workspace.
The FLARE Framework for Employee Happiness
Very few of the factors that make employees happy at work are money. Most relate to the human aspects of work. Strong relationships, a good work-life balance, and feeling valued will always mean more to employees than incentives.
I've determined five factors that impact employee happiness, summarised by a simple acronym: FLARE. FLARE is shorthand for:
● F - Flexibility and work-life balance
● L - Learning and Development
● A- Autonomy and Responsibility
● R- Recognition and Reward
● E - Environment and Culture
Businesses that adopt this framework will ensure that employees are more engaged, satisfied and ultimately, happier at work. In the next section, we'll explore each one in greater detail.
1. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance reduces stress, boosts happiness and prevents burnout in the workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, the psychological and physical problems of burnout have cost the US economy between $125-$190 billion a year. Promoting a work-life balance will not only save money but create and maintain a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
Creating a flexible work environment is one of the most effective ways of promoting a good work-life balance. The ability to work remotely has boosted employee well-being and happiness by 20%, according to Forbes, as it reduces stress, boosts job satisfaction and helps employees adopt healthier habits. x
Work-life balance is about more than hours and working from your couch on occasion. The workplace environment should be a happy place, too. Comfortable office conditions, opportunities for social connection and professional growth, and a friendly atmosphere are all conducive to a healthy, balanced working life.
2. Learning and Development
Learning and development focus on helping employees acquire skills to improve their on-job performance as well as helping employees to grow professionally through continuous learning. The opportunity for professional growth is often among the top criteria for employees to join an organisation, while the lack of opportunity for growth is a key reason why employees leave. Investments in learning and development prepare employees for higher job responsibilities and show that their contributions are valued, which boosts engagement and retention. If employees are provided with the opportunity to improve their competencies, they tend to stay at the organisation longer and become more productive.
This is particularly important to millennials, who will soon make up the bulk of the workforce. In fact, it's even more important to millennials than a good work-life balance.
3. Autonomy and Responsibility
All people need to feel that they have choices and that what they are doing is of their own volition. Granting employees autonomy is one of the biggest challenges managers face when they take on the role for the first time. They need to manage people, and not tasks, working through employees to get things done. Instead of telling staff how to execute their work, they need to set strategic direction and benchmarks and allow them to determine the best way to accomplish the task at hand.
Instead of micromanaging tasks, focus on the end result and give employees the latitude to decide how to overcome challenges and meet expectations. When employees feel that they have the freedom and choice to do their work, they are more motivated. The sense of responsibility and ownership is far greater, and they have a heightened sense of control over the situation, which contributes to their performance. This is an important factor in employee happiness, especially for high achievers that want to make their own way in the world.
Leaders need to give staff the freedom to shape their approach to challenges according to their abilities and preferences if they want to create a happier workplace.
4. Recognition and Reward
Recognition and rewards acknowledge employees for their performance in intrinsic or extrinsic ways in a fair and timely manner. This includes appropriate financial compensation, team celebrations, recognition of years served and even milestones that have been reached.
Many businesses undervalue the power of recognition. According to a survey by Acuity Training, feeling undervalued at work is the number 1 reason (69%) unhappy employees gave for being unhappy and the number 2 (57%) reason that satisfied employees gave for being happy with their job.
Your rewards and recognition program should be highly structured with a goal in mind. Recognition and rewards work if they are strongly linked to business objectives. Employees should know what is required of them to make the connection between their work and the goals of the company.
It's important to note that not all rewards are monetary. Bonuses, stock options and variable pay are part of it, but so is verbal or written praise. Employers should also recognise a job well done by offering employees a greater choice of assignments, increased authority or increased responsibility.
5. Environment and Culture
Every company has its own unique culture or collective personality that's usually apparent, both internally and externally, in the atmosphere, environment and output of the business. Culture defines the way employees conduct themselves, shapes interactions with one another, and influences the output and presentation of the work completed. All of these factors impact our enjoyment of work and our motivation to carry out our work. A toxic culture is usually evidenced by high employee turnover and low morale. New employees are influenced by the root cause, and the problems can persist for years.
A strong, fun, supportive culture takes time to develop, and it will be heavily influenced by the other factors on this list. Promoting transparency and autonomy is important. When a business enables employees to be a part of the business and its decisions, they are far more invested in its outcomes, vision and mission. Leaders should talk with employees and not to employees, acting as a mentor that helps them feel more appreciated and supported and fostering a sense of belonging.
The organisations that retain their staff and improve performance are the ones that integrate the five FLARE elements into their workplace. The pandemic has shown us that employees are not just automatons but human beings with personal needs and family concerns that have to be taken into account.
Employers need to take steps to bring greater depth and humanity to the workplace that helps employees flourish at all levels. Workers who are given the opportunity to acquire new skills and learn new things have a strong sense of autonomy and a solid understanding of the value of their contribution to the company and operate in a pleasant and friendly workplace that shows appreciation for their efforts will feel happier and stay at their current job for longer.
Happiness at work is directly connected to employee well-being, productivity, engagement and profitability. Any employer that wants to improve those metrics needs to ensure their workplace is conducive to happiness.