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Solving the productivity puzzle

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For years the UK’s productivity has lagged behind its global counterparts. According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK has ranked below the G7 countries average of £GDP produced per hour worked every year since 1995. In 2016, the UK languished second from bottom of the G7 league table, above only Italy in the productivity stakes.

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There are lots of economic theories trying to explain the numbers. Shifts from industries such as mining into sectors such as care. Or the impact of the financial crisis on the finance industry. Of course, we all want to understand the reasons behind the numbers – but the most important thing is what we do to improve it. How can we increase productivity in the UK and what actions must we take in order to achieve it?

Back in 2005, we started researching happiness at work to, among other things, find out whether it impacted performance and productivity at work. We started collecting data on how happy people were at work and what was impacting it. It produced some startling findings. Over the past 12 years we have continued to collect data from nearly 60,000 respondents from over 130 countries.

From our extensive, meticulous research programme The Science of Happiness at Work™ alongside our experience developing leaders we can see that exceptional leaders create a particular environment in which people can give their best and contribute to team and organisational success. In summary, they create and support an environment where people are happy at work.

Happiness at Work is defined as a mindset which enables action to maximise performance and achieve potential.

This environment leaders help create is evidenced by 5Cs within our Performance-Happiness model. They are:

  • Contribution: what you do
  • Conviction: your short-term motivation
  • Culture: your feeling of fit
  • Commitment: your long-term engagement
  • Confidence: your self-belief

These factors are all interlocked, working as an ecosystem with a strong impact on each other. And there are three other elements which create the context to help hold everything in place:

  • Trust in your organisation
  • Recognition from your organisation
  • Pride in your organisation

So what?

Of course, we want employees to be happy at work, but can we prove it makes any tangible difference? Is it a ‘nice to do’ or does it have a financial impact? Our data shows us that a happy colleague is a high-performing one.

The happiest employees:

  • Take one tenth the sick-leave of their least happy colleagues
  • Are six times more energised
  • Intend to stay twice as long in their organisations
  • Are twice as productive

Our library of case studies consistently proves that Happiness at Work is linked to many other aspects of high performance, such that it:

  • Unleashes creativity and the sharing of ideas
  • Encourages prosocial behaviour
  • Boosts resilience
  • Releases bursts of positive emotion which makes people more likely to expand their thinking and act on it

Resilience is a key skill for all leaders in managing the challenges of today’s VUCA world. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are the new norm. Employees’ happiness at work provides a solid foundation to build a thriving agile workplace. Happiness at Work is a resource that drives engaged behaviours, creativity and resilience, even in tough times.

Case study

Our project at a national charity demonstrated that measuring and managing Happiness at Work enabled the charity to alleviate pressure, increase resilience and improve relationships, whilst managing an ambitious change agenda, including a digitisation programme and considerable expansion plans.

The impact of their Happiness at Work programme over four years meant that their talented team:

  • Intended to stay 38.6% longer rather than quit
  • Said that their job fits their expectations of it 11.2% more
  • Felt able to raise issues 11.3% more
  • Experienced 10.4% more positive emotions at work

According to ACAS, the average cost to replace just one member of staff is over £30,000. The key driver is the loss of productivity during the 28 weeks that it takes, on average, for a new employee to become fully productive. Increasing intention to stay by improving Happiness at Work can therefore directly impact productivity.

Research shows us that the people who are happiest at work are 50% more motivated than the least happy. And the least motivated people are 50% less productive.

So how do we solve the productivity puzzle? The great news is that people want to contribute. They want to get things done, give their best and achieve their potential. Leaders have a critical role in inspiring everyone to help develop a work environment where everyone loves to work, can thrive, be productive and therefore deliver outstanding results for their organisation.

About the author 

Julia Lindsay is CEO of iOpener Institute for People and Performance, a global consultancy which develops brilliant organisational leaders through inspiring leadership development programmes, leadership skills development, executive coaching and systemic team development. 


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