Written by Emma Seppala.
Given the extraordinary low levels of engagement in the U.S. workforce — a recent Gallup poll showed that 70% of employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work — many leaders are looking for solutions. Some turn to material perks (bonuses, game rooms, free food) in the hopes of making employees happier. However, research suggests that these efforts, while appreciated, do not address more effective drivers of long-term well-being. Instead, leaders should be mindful about giving their employees three things:
Inspiration. No matter what your organization does — whether it’s offering a service or building products — it is important that your culture be infused with meaning. Studies show that people who have a sense of purpose are more focused, creative, and resilient, so leaders should make a point of reminding employees how their work is improving people’s lives. Distributing client or customer testimonials and announcing when corporate profits are donated to charities are just a couple of examples of how to do so. Research from Wharton’s Adam Grant shows that even unsatisfied employees feel better about their jobs when they devote time to good causes, and that workplace support programs are effective not only because people get help, but also because they can give it. Leaders, too, can be great sources of inspiration to employees. Studies show that when they act selflessly, proving they care more about the group than themselves, workers are more trusting, cooperative, dedicated, loyal, collegial, and committed. Bosses who show they are fair also inspire greater dedication, citizenship, and productivity, as Wayne Baker of the University of Michigan has shown. Make sure to work alongside your team members on a daily or weekly basis, showing your allegiance to them and to the broader organization.
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