The recipe for employee happiness

In the context of The Great Resignation with talent wars raging and employers battling to fill multiple vacancies, it feels like a great opportunity to unravel what makes an employee happy at work. And having happy and fulfilled employees won’t just help protect you from the turbulence of the Great Resignation. A recent study into happiness and productivity found that workers are 13% more productive when happy.

Happiness is of course a broad term, referring to a positive state of mind, and alluding to a sense of contentment or satisfaction. When applying this term to the workplace we’re generally talking about job satisfaction and a sense of contentment in the workplace that, importantly, means people don’t feel like leaving. Given that happiness is a constantly moving scale, it’s important to think about how employees could feel and act at both ends of that spectrum.

Happy staff

Happy staff feel empowered, trusted, appreciated, informed, included, safe, proud and recognised. These feelings result in them operating with a growth mindset, giving extra effort, being brand advocates and behaving as cultural champions.

Employee happiness. Copy reads: Happy Staff Feel: Personally empowered, trusted and appreciated That they are well-informed and listened to Included and that they belong Physically and psychologically safe Proud of their work and their contribution to the organisations success Recognised and appreciated Able to develop new skills Act: Operate with a growth mindset Give unprompted discretionary effort Make unprompted acts of advocacy (like sharing social media posts, referring new customers, or recommending vacancies to friends and family) Behave as cultural champions for colleagues by leading positive conversations in the workplace

Unhappy staff

Employees that are unhappy often feel frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, burnt out, unappreciated, micro-managed, voiceless, excluded, bored, insecure and even unsafe. They may be actively seeking other opportunities either internally or externally. They’ll become disengaged from non-mandatory activities and could even become culturally toxic. Ultimately, unhappy staff will likely leave.

Employee happiness. Copy reads Unhappy staff Feel: Frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, and burnt out Unappreciated and micro-managed That a balanced personal and work life can’t co-exist Victim to a lack of voice to make changes Excluded, overlooked, and bored Physically or psychologically unsafe A sense of foreboding for job security Act: Seek other opportunities either in or outside of the organisation Work to rule with no discretionary effort Become disengaged from team or non-mandatory business activity Are culturally toxic leading negative conversations with colleagues And ultimately leave

How to improve employee happiness

While we may all seek to create a happy environment where employees can thrive, it’s also critical to understand that every employee will have their own unique perception of the employee experience. When it comes to employee happiness there is not a ‘one size fits all’. The challenge for employers is to nail the core elements that create a happy workplace as well as seek to understand the unique perspectives and experiences of different cohorts, be that silo workers, different genders, races, generations, seniority levels and more.

There will be many things that are bespoke to an organisation, however there are key elements that appear critical to all employees regardless of industry, job type or seniority. Focusing on getting these elements right first is a good place to start.

Here are a few of our recommended steps to creating a happier workforce:

Management behaviour

People leave people not organisations. Recruiters suggest that one of the top reasons candidates are changing jobs is due to micro-management, which leaves employees struggling to feel empowered, listened to or able to make an impact.

Development & advancement

Many things have felt ‘on hold’ for the last couple of years and many employees are feeling their development is one of them. Feeling stuck or with no clear career progression is a regular cause for frustration.


The rising cost of living this is clearly a factor in the Great Reshuffle. While employers may simply not be in a position to increase pay across the business, there are some steps that can be taken. Ensure benchmarking is up to date, that there are no anomalies in individual pay that could be proactively resolved, and that where possible there is transparency on the future of pay strategies and policies.


Whilst the traditional employee opinion survey is a great way to capture the feelings and opinions of your workforce, it’s critical to get honest feedback. Being able to trust the confidentiality of the survey helps increase psychological safety and will provide you with more constructive feedback so it’s worth considering using an external provider who can also benchmark your results against other similar businesses. We use Great Place to Work to help with this.

Once you’ve captured feedback, it’s now time to be fully transparent with your workforce, playing back what you’ve heard, what you’re going to work on, how they can help, the timescales for actions and even spelling out anything that is difficult to solve so you’re setting expectations and going on the journey together.

Top tip: Set up a robust process for regularly capturing, listening to, and actioning employee feedback.

Continual improvement

Taking action to improve your workplace isn’t a one off activity, as one set of improvements get achieved more issues will be identified. Employee expectations are increasing rapidly. What a member of staff may have accepted as satisfactory employee experience five years ago will simply no longer cut it. The most significant shifts have been in employer purpose, employee mental health, social responsibility, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Top tip: At the most senior level, set expectations that maintaining a thriving workforce requires ongoing effort, investment, and focus. Keep the employee voice on the agenda throughout the organisation.

Collaboration and culture

Leaders can set and direct a culture, but the reality is that it is delivered by the workforce. How a new employee understands a company’s culture is based on the behaviour they observe in colleagues as soon as they join the organisation, be that good or bad, correct, or incorrect.

Collaboration is critical here. Employees need to feel that they can make an impact, shape decisions, raise issues that will get looked at, or suggest solutions that will be listened to. Once this level of employee trust exists, they will go further by delivering the culture to others and even at to fiercely protect it.

Top tip: Collaborate with the workforce on key projects or hold employee forums. Demonstrate the impact they’ve made by raising issues and suggesting solutions, and actively ask them to take responsibility for delivering a positive culture. These actions will help create an environment were all can feel that they belong.

The role of Internal Communications

We might be biased but we strongly believe that Internal Comms plays a vital role in creating and maintaining employee happiness. From keeping employees in the loop on organisational changes to helping them feel included, appreciated, listened to, and even supporting employee wellbeing, there’s so much that great internal communications can achieve. Internal Comms teams need investment, senior Leadership respect and support and access to the whole workforce.

Top tip: Lead a best-in-class internal comms function, from ensuring they have a voice at the Board to investing in comms channels that reach the whole workforce.

If you’re looking for support with creating internal communications that engage your team, keep them feeling informed and empowered, or support their wellbeing, get in touch to see how we can help.