Lord Price: My Six Steps to Workplace Happiness

By Lord Mark Price, Founder of WorkL For Business, former Trade Minister and former Managing Director of Waitrose

I’ve worked in business for over 40 years, as the former Managing Director of Waitrose as well as the former Minister for Trade. In this time, I’ve never seen managers have it so hard at work, as they do now and it’s all to do with the wellbeing of their teams. WorkL For Business, the company I founded in 2017, has recently published a report into the state of employee engagement globally, Lockdown Lessons, and its findings reveal the impact the recent pandemic has had on those working in management. Our report’s data is taken from WorkL’s free Happy at Work Test which has now been taken by over 250,000 individuals and 23,000 organisations globally. The results reveal that during the pandemic management were tasked with managing their teams from afar, via Zoom, without any training or support from the directors above them, well not until we all understood that it would be months until we were back in the office and then the support came, but in the guise of office desks and chairs for your home.

This disruption to managing a team at this time took its toll and resulted in a drop of 3% in the happiness of managers. This is compared to happiness in non-managers increasing from 60% to 69% in the same time period. After learning on-the-job how to manage from afar, managers were then met with the ‘Great Resignation’- when employees were made to return to the office resulting in them leaving for more flexible job roles. And this is something that is ongoing; as more people are herded back to the office by their boss, they are on the look-out for new roles that give more flexibility than pre-pandemic. The result is that management is having to try to retain employees whilst at the same time recruit to fill the gaps – and it’s really taking its toll on their happiness at work.

Here’s what our data also reveals for managers:

• There has been a narrowing of happiness for management over the past two years scoring poorly for Wellbeing Risk, Net Promoter Score and overall happiness.

• Those working in non-management saw their Flight Risk significantly decrease (-18%), however management flight risk increased by a single point reflecting their decreasing happiness score during the pandemic.

• Confidence in management also fell overall from August 2021 to January 2022 reflecting management’s decreasing happiness. This is important to measure as this directly impacts the whole team and ultimately, productivity and profitability. Research shows that happy and engaged employees drive 20% improvement in profits, productivity and reduce employees’ sick absence and staff turnover. So, keep your teams happy and you’ll likely see success commercially.

My Six Steps to Workplace Happiness is a guide to how to keep teams engaged and happy in their job role:

• Reward and Recognition – everyone in an organisation should enjoy the rewards of success. If you’re not earning a fair salary, no amount of recognition for a job well done will be enough to make you forget you’re not being paid enough. Your pay scale has to meet expectations and encourage discretionary effort. To maximise employees’ performance and pay it is important to recognise that you need the following three things from those managing:
• Leadership — which is consistent, and shows a sincere interest in the team.
• Managers — who are consistent, impartial and honest and willing to provide appropriate feedback and coaching.
• Goals — the goals of both business and individuals should be clearly and explicitly understood and expressed and whenever possible set by those delivering so that they are truly owned.

• Information Sharing – not sharing information makes employees feel an unimportant part of the business. Engagement and commitment can be eroded by this. If you are a business that wants to get the best out of individuals on the team, openness is key. Employees at all levels need a genuine overview of what is going on in their area and elsewhere. If employees understand the business, its strategy, how it is doing and who are the customers and competitors, they will make it stronger. Knowledge will unlock an influential role in important decisions. Individuals on the team will have valuable input on working methods and work together to coordinate their efforts.

• Empowerment – the aim of any business must surely be to make their employees feel empowered and this means making them a key part of the decision-making process, listening to their ideas and integrating their suggestions to build and refine your strategy. Our personal experiences inevitably bring us all to different solutions and ways of achieving them, but only by listening to all views can the best outcome be reached. Nobody is perfect but a team can be.

• Wellbeing – health and well-being can be broken down into three key areas; physical, emotional and financial. By addressing all three, employers will improve engagement levels and productivity. Happy workplaces have lower levels of absence because people are engaged and engagement strengthens well-being. At the heart of well-being are relationships based on mutual trust and respect that managers have with their team members, and individuals have with one another, so they are able to proactively and re-actively spot and discuss any concerns they may have and get the timely help they need. Listening to employees and responding to their anxieties plays a crucial role, too.

• Instilling Pride – employees who love what they do and feel proud of where they work will speak openly and positively about it to colleagues, potential employees, customers and people in their community. When people ask that inevitable, getting-to-know-you question of ‘where do you work’, you’ll hear the pleasure in their voice when they reply. Instilling such pride is not just about stirring speeches, sharing growth figures, or saying a few well-placed thank yous.

• Job Satisfaction – There are many elements to feeling satisfied at work, but time and again, two key reasons are cited – personal development and the strength of your relationship with your line manager. We have nothing of greater value than our people. High levels of employee engagement is the key to unlock organisational success. Research shows that the two biggest drivers of satisfaction are respectful treatment and trust between employees and senior management. A poor relationship with your manager is often cited as the number one reason for leaving and organisation, no matter how great the brand. Forget all the perks, incentives, reviews and motivational tactics: treating people with humanity, is what really counts. Satisfaction is principally about what companies are doing at a personal level to make people’s lives better.