5 scientifically proven ways to make employees happier (and more productive)

Happier employees

Is morale low in your workplace? Are you noticing higher rates of absenteeism? Maybe you’re simply wondering how to get your employees more motivated? The good news is that you aren’t the only one!

Psychologists and researchers have long been interested in understanding the best ways to unlock productivity and motivation. And while they have not developed one single magic bullet that will solve these issues, they have pointed us toward a number of simple and cost-effective strategies you can adopt right now.

Here are five scientifically proven ways to enhance employee productivity and satisfaction.

The valence instrumentality-expectancy theory

This psychological theory states that people behave according to anticipated outcomes (such as recognition for completing a task) or their perceived value of these outcomes (such as opportunity for advancement).

Sounds simple enough, but confusion regarding expectations (on both sides) is often at the root of employee dissatisfaction. To put the expectancy theory into practice, focus on establishing clear channels of communication, and defining your expectations of employees’ roles and tasks. In simplest terms, your staff needs to understand what is expected of them, and what benefits they can earn if they meet those expectations, including a bonus, increased responsibilities, and possible career advancement.

If this sounds difficult, consider establishing more regular meetings and performance reviews, with the goal being to improve communication and goal setting.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning states that an individual’s behaviour is a function of its consequences. More specifically, it claims that by applying stimuli either negative or positive you could establish desired behavior. While there is often no choice to offer negative reinforcement in the workplace (think absenteeism or substandard work performance), positive reinforcement has been demonstrated to be much more effective when it comes to satisfaction and motivation.

In your workplace, positive reinforcement could be given in the form of individual or group recognition. Individual reinforcement could be as simple as taking the time to say thank you, or publicly recognizing someone’s work performance.

When it comes to group reinforcement, you can often promote engagement by simply providing coffee or lunch during meetings. If this is too basic for you, consider implementing bonus incentives for teams based on the completion of projects or sales quotas.

Two-factor theory

The Two-Factor theory outlines the factors that contribute to job satisfaction, as well as what can lead to dissatisfaction. It claims that while rewards can be successful motivating factors, there is reason to believe that strong interpersonal relationships in the workplace can serve as protective factors against job dissatisfaction and worker complacency.

Positive coworker relationships can be supported and facilitated through team-building exercises or out-of-office group activities. Apart from having some fun outside of the office, these can also foster trust, promote teamwork, and improve morale.

Role enrichment theory

Most human beings thrive when they have a perceived sense of purpose. Research examining workers’ perceptions of their jobs suggests that people who perceive a strong personal fit with their work environment have greater job satisfaction. In other words, the more workers feel that their jobs are meaningful and inline with their values, the happier and more motivated they are.

Through harnessing your employees’ sense of purpose, you can stimulate career fulfillment and enhanced work output – a win-win scenario. The key is to make sure your employees feel as if they’re valued and important to the organization, and that together, you’re all part of something larger. To accomplish this, encourage employees to provide organizational feedback and give them opportunities to participate in team goal setting. It’s not enough, however, to just have them submit ideas; you have to be open to your staff’s ideas, especially when they differ from your own.

Auditory stimulation

According to a 2009 study, music activates areas of the brain responsible for concentration, intrinsic motivation, and emotional regulation. What does this mean for you? A little music can aid creativity and productivity, as well as perceived satisfaction. Classical music, specifically, has been proven to complement work requiring immersive attention, such as writing.

This isn’t to say you need to blast Mozart all day. In fact, loud music or excessive background noise has been shown to deteriorate productivity for some individuals. The best course of action is to foster an inclusive environment where your employees can use their own personal music device when they need a pick-me-up, while other workers can still benefit from a relatively noise-free environment.

Key takeaways

There may not be one magic cure to absenteeism and employee dissatisfaction, but by setting team goals, establishing clear communication channels, and focusing on team building (through recognition, out-of-office events, and office culture), you can improve morale and productivity.

See also:
7 reasons why performance reviews are still important for your small business
5 steps to setting goals with your team


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