Happiness at work is profitable

On previous occasions we talked about the the connection between motivation and productivity. No doubt: if you get your employees motivated you get also more engaged, more optimistic and even happier employees. At the end when we feel comfortable in our working environment we work more and better.

There is much talk these days of happiness at work and the optimistic organizations, though often these concepts are addressed in a much more personal and less corporate. Well, this time I would like to reflect how these concepts can affect to the business.

Two of the core values for a person full development are freedom and responsibility. With greater autonomy comes greater responsability, so the best way to motivate an employee should be working hard on this and promoting a strong sense of ownership of the profesional project. But this is a two-way street. To do this it is essential that senior management is willing to develop their employees and allow them to achieve a higher level of maturity and also the employee is willing to engage and commit more.

How do you get that? Let's face it: this approach is valid for any company but not for any people. It is not an easy task but even so there is a concept that can help us move in this direction: the empowerment.

Empowerment implies the delegation of authority to the professionals and granting them a strong sense of ownership of their own work. It is therefore a strategic process that seeks a partner relationship between the senior management and the employees. It transcends the typical boss-employee relationship where the manager gives an instruction and the employee is strictly limited run, to reach a point where there is a greater value contribution and a higher level of  commitment between the two parties.

But empowerment is not a one-way from the head to the employee. The employee (or group of employees) should take a very active part and be aware of their own contribution. From this perspective, empowerment is an exercise in strengthening one's own abilities and increase its visibility within the organization. That is, the professional must assume that personal growth is also an exercise of personal responsibility and therefore should not be passive and wait for the boss or the company to assume the leadership of his/her own development.

It is imperative, therefore, that the employee understands that the times in which professional development, training, risk taking and initiative were the sole senior management responsibility thankfully are over.

Empowerment helps people to lose their fear of change and and also to be more proactive and enthusiastic. Put another way, people are happier when they are empowered. They feel more engaged, flexible and creative as they feel more secure and recognized. Somehow the empowered professional becomes an “active problem-solver” instead of a mere executor of instructions.

The main barriers to empowerment are primarily psychological and are based on fear. From the business perspective leaders are quite often afraid of empowering employees. From the employees perspective fear feelings are often linked to self-esteem (Will I be able to do it? Where do I start? What my boss will think about it?) and lack of consistency.

The only way to successfully implement a process of this type in a company goes through the full involvement of the owner and the senior management who must lead the cultural change. Involve middle management is also crucial. For this, a good recommendation is to opt for constant training (and, especially, self-training) and for a leadership coaching exercise (business tool to identify potential improvement areas and to implement the action plans).

In any case, as in many other professional fields, the key to success in a process of empowerment lies in having a clear goal and be consistent in the effort to achieve it. It is therefore important to ask the right questions and find honest answers from which to undertake the necessary action plan:

Self diagnosis: Where am I?  How do people see me?
Goals: Where do I want to be?  How I want people to see me?
Action Plan: What do I have to do and when? Who can help me?
Evaluation: How will I know if I have succeeded? How I can improve?

As my admired Haile Gebrselassie used to say "if you have a plan, you know what to do."