Happiness at work

Last week in Sofia Alexander Kjerulf and Nic Marks spoke about happiness at work. Both of them stated that the happy employees are most productive. And if this is not enough of a reason to do something about your employees, I would like to list few more reasons not only to care about happiness at work, but to demand it!

The happy employees talk about what they dislike in the company. For a lot of managers the lack of feedback from the employees is a serious problem. The employees does not share ideas, does not tell their problems and accept everything with indifference. Those are not happy employees – the happy ones want to keep their workplace happy and will never be silent if something is keeping them from being happy. If your policy is “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”, you won’t receive a lot of feedback. But if you are policy is one that people must be happy, be prepared for a lot of discussions.

The happy employees find ways to do their job more effectively. If part of the job is boring you can be sure that they will find a way either to automate it or to render it completely obsolete from the process. The happiness at work is directly connected to the creativity, so if you want your workforce to produce innovative solutions, it’s a must that the people are happy.

The happy employees won’t accept mediocre work. All people want to do a decent job – at least according to their own perception of a good job. One of the greatest demotivators, listed by Tom DeMarco in his excellent book “Peopleware”, is the impossibility to do a high-quality work – either because of tight deadlines, lack of resources or something else beyond employee control. The employees often keep silent about defects in the product, hoping they will be able to fix them afterwards or just knowing it’s not their fault. The happy ones will bring the problem to light and will seek a solution.

The happy people will help you to recruit employees they want to work with. They won’t just participate in the hiring process, they will recruit their acquaintances and well-known professionals to join the company. If your employees are not willing to recommend you their friends or to participate in the hiring, they are not liking their job much. There is no better argument to recruit someone to join your company than the fact that your people are happy in their job!

If you want your business to advance, and not only to offer high-quality products or services, but constant innovation as well, make the happiness at work a company policy. Hire people that will feel great in your company, and demand happiness from your employees. When people are not enthusiastic about their work, that’s a sign of underlying problems in the company – problems you may not learn about for months.

Welcome bonus

You are trying to fill a position, but there are no candidates. The reason is that there is shortage of talent. Or is it? I doubt it.

The IT is full of so called passive candidates. There are enough jobs for everyone, so nearly everyone is by definition employed. Moreover, even the ones that actually want to switch their jobs are not applying for a job. There are plenty of reasons for this. Starting a new job is a risky business – the company may not be better, the job may not be what you have hoped for, you may even fail and be in a position to actively look for a job – something most people in the sector are not used to. With so many offers available it’s hard to choose which one to pursue and which not, and just going trough the interviews to find out can be exhaustive process.

How can you help to your candidates to apply for the job in those circumstances? You can make failing on the new job safe by paying the employee even if she does not keep the job – either because she didn’t like it or because you have made a mistake hiring her and decide to let her go. That’s what Zappos do – they have a 4 week training, and if the new employee decide to leave during this training – they not only pay her for the time, but pay additional $2000 bonus. That’s lowering the risk for the employee, who can take her time to search for a new job. More important, it allows the employee to quit as soon as she decided to, not being on the job while searching for another one.

Still, losing a job – even if you decide to quit – doesn’t feel quite well. The employee has lost her previous job, and while she may not be in the worst situation from an economic perspective, she is forced to search for a new one. Maybe still not worth taking the risk?

What if you pay the $2000 or whatever amount you decide, no matter if the relationship will work or not? First, you will be the only one with such an offer, at least for a while, and this will grant you a lot of attention. It may play a good role in deciding if the risk is worth taking – if the job turns out to be the right one, the employee wins the next step in her career and some extra money; if she fails, at least she gets the money. Often you will pay a premium to someone who just referenced a candidate; why not pay to candidates themselves and let them apply. It makes sense to me. Some companies pay for relocation, defining it as changing the area the employee lives in; why not paying for relocation, as in changing the company?

Sure, this will make hiring mistakes more expensive and you have to be sure your candidate is not applying just to get the extra cash, in case she is already leaving the company. But that’s the case with paying higher than average salaries too. You have to be sure employees are not in the company only because of the paycheck, and if the salaries are really high, you may have employees that won’t leave the company for only one reason – no one is offering them such high salary. Paying once for the wrong hire is much better than paying each month! And Zappos have decided that its cheaper to pay people to leave than to have people, who will leave anyway, or who have mentally left, but still are on the job.

If you try to explore this opportunity, do not fall in the trap to hire the best candidate you have, no matter if he is the right for the job. You should always seek for the right person in the right job; fast filling of positions may be just too expensive in the long run.