Why are some employees happy and a pleasure to work with, while others unhappy?

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They say if you want to kill staff morale, give them unrealistic targets and expectations, micromanage them and do not give them the required support to win in their roles. But that would be looking at the employer and expecting magic.

Great employees find a way to handle every situation and come out shining. As my senior and former boss used to say “technical people complain about this and that, business people find a way around the problem.” Every leader needs a person with a business mind – people who solve the problem and not create more.

Some employees are happy because they chose to focus on problem-solving which is part of problems. All systems are broken. It is the work of the employees to fix them. If you want a good working environment, make it happen.

Employee happiness and satisfaction

Employee happiness varies from person to person. However, after conducting several employee satisfaction surveys and exit interviews; as well as candidate selection, many employees value the following factors to be satisfied at the workplace:

Employees who feel that they have a good integration of their work and personal life tend to be happier and more productive at work. Work-life integration is influenced by flexible work arrangements, the ability to get time off, and support for personal and family needs; which are critical. Employees love it if their workplace allows them the flexibility to attend their children’s musical or social events at school. Inflexible workplaces make it difficult for staff to build on their social capital as well as perform their parenting roles. This could be a source of loss of passion for the job.

Employees who feel that they have opportunities to learn and develop new skills tend to be more engaged and satisfied with their work. This can be influenced by factors such as access to training and development programs, opportunities for career advancement, and regular feedback and coaching. My experience at EY is a good example. I was at EY around 2007. How time flies! At EY, one of the world’s leading professional services firms, there is a strong focus on providing opportunities for growth and development not only for new hires but for all staff. This is achieved through a variety of programs and initiatives designed to support employees as they progress in their careers. One such initiative is the EY Graduate Program, which is designed to provide new graduates with the tools and resources they need to succeed. You are prepared in the key areas of professional and career success like public speaking, business writing, etiquette and manners, networking, and business development, among others.  The program includes a comprehensive training curriculum that covers technical skills, professional development, and leadership training. It also provides opportunities for graduates to work on real-world projects alongside experienced professionals, gaining practical experience and building their skills. In addition to the Graduate Program, EY also offers a range of other training and development opportunities for employees at all levels. This includes regular training sessions, mentoring and coaching programs, and access to online learning resources. Employees are encouraged to take ownership of their development and pursue opportunities that align with their interests and career goals. EY also places a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion, recognizing that a diverse workforce is key to driving innovation and delivering the best results for clients. As such, the company offers a range of initiatives designed to support diversity and inclusion, including training programs, employee networks, and diversity recruitment initiatives. EY puts a lot of investment in your professional growth, which they demand from you in terms of work discipline. The overall net value of your career is positive and invaluable.

Employees who work in a positive and supportive work environment tend to be happier and more productive. Take the case of DBS, one of the top banks in Asia. It fosters a positive work environment by creating a collaboration and innovation culture. DBS encourages employees to share ideas and collaborate across departments and teams, recognizing that this is key to driving innovation and delivering the best results for clients. DBS also provides a range of resources and support to help employees manage their work-life balance. This includes flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and job-sharing, as well as employee assistance programs to support employees with personal and family needs.

Benefits and compensation drive staff satisfaction. Early in one’s career, some factors like opportunities for career advancement and job training mean a lot. However, as employees grow, they look more towards living a good life and planning for retirement. On-job benefits and compensation become key factors in their happiness. Employees that are fairly compensated and provided with appropriate benefits tend to be more satisfied with their work.  Earning competitive salaries, performance-based incentives, and comprehensive benefits packages.

Bank of Uganda offers a range of benefits to its employees, including health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. These benefits are designed to support employees and their families and to provide them with the security and stability they need to be successful in their roles. In addition to these benefits, the Bank of Uganda also provides competitive salaries to its employees. Salaries are determined based on factors such as education, experience, and performance, and are regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain competitive with other organizations in the industry. As a regulator, the Bank of Uganda has access to the pay structure of all the regulated financial institutions which helps them make their salaries competitive in addition to remuneration surveys. The bank also provides opportunities for employees to earn performance-based incentives, such as bonuses and promotions. These incentives are tied to individual and team performance and are designed to recognize and reward employees for their hard work and contributions to the organization.

Employees are happy and satisfied with their work when they feel that their work is meaningful and contributes to a larger purpose. This can be influenced by factors such as a clear mission and vision for the organization, opportunities to make a positive impact on society or the environment, plus clarity of purpose of the entity. Take the case of Centenary bank, Uganda’s top microfinance bank. One way Centenary Bank provides employees with meaningful work is by emphasizing its mission to promote financial inclusion and economic development in Uganda. The bank’s products are interventions that are biased toward providing banking services to individuals and businesses that are underserved and excluded in the formal banking system. The bank seeks to promote entrepreneurship and economic growth in the communities it serves by opening new branches across the country regardless of whether they make a profit. This is intended to uplift some areas other commercial banks would deem loss-making. The bank is said to go out of its way to mobilize funds from branches that are profit-making in urban areas to finance loss-making branches in rural areas as part of its wider financial inclusion. It’s such practices that endear the staff to love the bank, which is said to have one of the highest staff retention rates in the country.

Centenary Bank also provides employees with opportunities to get involved in social responsibility initiatives, such as volunteering in Rotary initiatives, and environmental causes. This allows employees to give back to their communities and to make a positive impact beyond their day-to-day work.

Staff satisfaction and happiness index score

As Mr Strategy, I am often asked by Human Resource Officers how to better measure staff satisfaction. The best measure approach is to use an index – which takes into consideration all factors mentioned above. To calculate the Staff Satisfaction Index score, you would need to assign a weight to each parameter that contributes to staff satisfaction, and then calculate a total score based on the assessed performance of the organization on each parameter.

The Staff Satisfaction Index score could be calculated as follows:

Factor 1: Employee Communication and Engagement: You could assign a weight of 30%. This factor assesses the effectiveness of communication and staff engagement within the organization, including factors such as the clarity and frequency of communication, the degree of transparency and honesty, and the extent to which employees feel heard and valued. A simple survey of all employees would help you rank how your organisation fairs in communication effectiveness.

Factor 2: Work-Life Integration: Assigned a weight of 15%. This factor considers the extent to which employees feel that they have a healthy balance between their work and personal lives, including things such as flexibility in work hours, the availability of support for personal needs, and the extent to which employees feel they can disconnect from work during non-work hours.

Factor 3: Career Development: Assigned a weight of 25%. This parameter assesses the degree to which employees feel that there are opportunities for career development within the organization, including factors such as access to training and development programs, opportunities for advancement, and the level of support for personal and professional growth.

Factor 4: Compensation and Benefits: Assigned a weight of 25%. This parameter evaluates the degree to which employees feel that they are fairly compensated and that they receive appropriate benefits, including factors such as salary, bonuses, health benefits, and retirement plans.

Factor 5: Work Environment and leadership quality: Assigned a weight of 5%. This parameter assesses the physical and psychological work environment, including factors such as workplace safety, cleanliness, noise levels, and the availability of resources and equipment necessary to perform job duties.  Leadership effectiveness considers the degree of support for employee development, the ability to inspire and motivate employees, and the level of trust and confidence in leadership. The total weights for all factors must not exceed 100%.

Once you have assigned weights to each of these parameters, you can calculate your Staff Satisfaction Index score using the following formula:

Staff Satisfaction Index Score = (Communication x 30%) + (Work-Life Integration x 15%) + (Career Development x 25%) + (Compensation and Benefits x 25%) + (Work Environment and Leadership x 5%)

For example, if your organization scores 85% on Communication, 80% on Work-Life Integration, 90% on Career Development, 85% on Compensation and Benefits, 90% on Work Environment, and 80% on Leadership, your Staff Satisfaction Index score would be:

Staff Satisfaction Index Score = (85% x 30%) + (80% x 15%) + (90% x 25%) + (85% x 25%) + (90% x 5%) = 86%

Your Staff Satisfaction Index score can be used to monitor progress and track the effectiveness of your staff satisfaction initiatives over time. It is important to review and adjust the weight assigned to each parameter periodically based on the changing needs of the organization and the evolving expectations of employees.

Copyright Mustapha Bernabas Mugisa, Mr Strategy. Copyright 2023. All rights reserved


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