I remember when companies competed to develop the coolest perks; beanbags, ping pong tables, free lattes and take-home dinners. Some of that stuff sounds nice to me. But I’ve also worked at a company that had a lot of those things and they didn’t make me happy. At all.
Frequently, when companies are looking to improve employee morale (to drive profits or reduce turnover, among other reasons), they throw money at the problem. I am sure some companies do this out of a sort of laziness of leadership, but I think that most companies doing this just don’t understand how to think about employee satisfaction, even as some of them hire teams to develop and manage their employer brand or internal programs (happy hours Friday everyone!).
As we have all heard, actions speak louder than words. And actions speak louder then perks. When I think back to a time when I was unhappy at work, amidst a cornucopia of supposedly happy-making employee benefits, what made me unhappy was my leadership. So many things were broken. Distrust was fostered among the team because some people were treated differently than others. Favor with the leader was curried by proclaiming support for his pet project. Honestly, it was a mess.
The manager training I experienced at that company didn’t address some of the core attributes that make for a happy workplace; the things that were in the hands of managers.
This video from TED sums up some of the attributes that make people happy at work, and in their absence, make employees unhappy. Even before hiring an employer brand team, I believe companies should get these core aspects of their culture right. Provide training, coaching and round tables. Help effective managers grow new managers.
Even as an individual manager, a focus on these attributes; really thinking about them as you conduct your work day, could make a huge difference for employees. It takes some humility and empathy; two qualities to develop, deepen and nurture as you grow your career as a leader.