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5 tips for happier employees in 2019

With reports constantly pointing out how unhappy employees are, Jerene Ang gives some ideas on how you can turn those frowns upside down in 2019.

It’s the start of the year, and as they say, “out with the old and in with the new”. For HR leaders, this could mean revamping old, outdated HR policies and replacing them with new groundbreaking ones.

While rounding up the top stories of the past year to compile some takeaways, this particular one stood out: Why 45% of Singaporeans are unhappy at work. Based on JobStreet.com’s Job Happiness Index 2017, it highlighted how 45% of Singaporeans were unhappy at work, while the other 55% were either neutral or happy at work.

What struck me wasn’t how new the finding is. What I found interesting was how little has changed over the years.

So, as we usher in 2019, I decided to put together some tips, based on past stories, for happier employees, in hope that this will help give you some ideas on turning this unhappy trend around.

#1 Healthy employees = happy employees

It doesn’t come as a surprise that healthy employees are happier employees. After all, healthy people don’t have rising healthcare costs to worry about.

A whitepaper by Aetna International pointed out the presence of constructive support helps people make better lifestyle decisions.

As HR leaders, you can encourage staff to take charge of their health. Not only that, you can also go a step further by providing an avenue for them to do so in the following ways:

  • Incorporating a weekly or monthly wellness programme where employees take part in simple sports activities in groups. This helps them to not only destress, but also support one another in keeping active.
  • Providing medical and/or gym membership discounts.
  • Organising quarterly health screenings at the workplace.

#2 Interesting titles

Another way to put a smile on your employees’ faces - especially the younger ones - is to give them something to be excited about.

One way to do so is with a title more interesting than ‘associate’ or ‘assistant’.

As Korn Ferry noted in a recent white paper, new roles and titles are emerging across many industries. Why not take this as an opportunity to revamp those dusty position descriptions to reflect today’s workplace realities better, while putting a more exciting spin on what the role actually achieves.  

You can’t deny that ‘data wrangler’ (responsible for interpreting mounds of data) sounds better than ‘data analyst’, or that introducing oneself as a ‘legal ninja’ brings about more delight than ‘legal aide’.

#3 Up your focus on diversity and inclusion

Millennials and Gen Z are becoming more attuned to companies that are taking the initiative to make a positive social impact.

One way to retain this group is to consider elements that help create a positive impact on society such as diversity and inclusion instead of merely focusing on financial gains.

While achieving a diverse workforce is an uphill battle, Magesvaran Suranjan, President of P&G Asia Pacific and P&G India, Middle East and Africa, believes that it can be cracked like any other business issue.

Sharing advice for business leaders to push for gender equality at P&G’s inaugural #WeSeeEqual Symposium last year, he said: “It starts with an intentionality and a specific plan. Then track it, and be accountable to the result. It’s what we call the PDCA loop – plan, do, check, act.”

The key, he revealed, is to keep at it and don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work the first time - learn, and go about that loop again.

“I believe that like any other business issue, we are going to crack it. And when we crack it, there is going to be great reward – for the company, for the society we work in and all enterprises that are part of a large entity.”

#4 Personalised remuneration

A common gripe employees have about their work is the remuneration. JobStreet.com’s survey revealed salary increment and additional job perks as ways to increase Singaporean employees’ happiness levels at work.

Although more is always better when it comes to remuneration, it may not always be the amount, it may be the expectation.

With four generations now in the workforce, there are different expectations when it comes to pay and rewards packages, Korn Ferry observed.

A solution to this is to listen to employees and understand the differences in what might incentivise one group, from another group. Then, tailor rewards packages, offering different mixes of pay, flex time, paid time off, international assignments, student loan repayment, etc.

#5 Improve their conditions of employment

The Ministry of Manpower’s Conditions of Employment 2018 report placed the minimum days of annual leave entitlement as having the second highest impact on staff resignation rates.

So, if you want to keep your staff happily engaged, while differentiating your employer brand, you may want to consider giving them a few more days of annual leave.

And while they’re on leave, why not pull out our favourite out-of-office email response among the tens of entries we gathered last year:

“Greetings, dear sender!
Your email is important to me.
Unless, of course, you are a Nigerian prince who just inherited his father’s fortune and need me to open a Nigerian bank account with at least $100,000 in it to qualify as a foreign recipient of the funds.
I am currently on holiday, and apologise that I am not able to respond to your email immediately. I will return on xxx refreshed, reinvigorated, and 3 kilogrammes heavier.
In my absence, you may contact my friendly, capable and unfortunate colleagues.”

Above all, we should all remember that keeping employees happy should start with achieving excellent employee relations.

As the experts from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) noted in their wish list for 2019, this can be achieved by ensuring employees are treated well with dignity and respect so that they feel valued at work.

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