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Leadership Now

The Simple 3-Part Formula For Employee Happiness

The secret to employee satisfaction isn't complicated. The argument for building trust, adding flexibility, and putting an emphasis on a good cultural fit.

[Image: Flickr user Greg]

It’s no coincidence that I have been with the same employer for so long. In fact, in the five years that my company has been around, there have been only a handful of voluntary departures. Here are a few reason why I think we've been able to keep employees even in a super competitive hiring environment:

Workplace Attitudes Trickle Down from the Top

At the first meeting I ever had with my CEO, the first thing we discussed was not where we went to college or whom we had in common in our professional networks, but how old our kids were. Since then, I’ve not only had discussions with him on where he thinks the marketing industry is going in the next five years, but also why the PBS character Caillou seems to mesmerize the toddler set like no one else. At most companies, no matter the size, the "tone" ultimately gets set at the very top and trickles down to every employee. That tone can express positivity in the form of fun, honesty and transparency, or in some unfortunate cases, convey feelings of intimidation and mistrust. To hire competitively in today’s market, companies need to command the right attitudes at the very top to attract the most talented and committed employees at every level of the organization. A great work ethic and a positive attitude can be contagious, and it’s up to companies to support this idea—starting with management.

Don’t Require Employees to Earn Your Trust—Make it a Given

Sure, free snacks and drinks are great. But you know what’s even better? Making your employees feel like you trust them, through and through. Here are some quick examples. My company’s flexible work schedule policy would make Marissa Mayer cringe. Not only can you work from home whenever you need to, but 20% of our employees work from remote offices located across the globe, from Abu Dhabi to Omaha and Honolulu to Seattle. But it doesn’t stop there. The only vacation policy we have is, "take it when you need it." When it comes to expenses, the rule of "treat the company’s money as if it was your own," likewise, falls under this "trust" approach. Much like a good health care plan, benefits like these can do wonders for overall employee happiness (not to mention your recruiting process). Further, if you hire right, these benefits don’t cost the company much to implement or maintain.

Hire Right—and Right from the Start

All of this leads us to one of the most important determinants of employee happiness, which is hiring the right people from the very beginning. Not every company culture is for everyone, and it’s up to both parties to be honest with themselves and each other throughout the interviewing process. Companies can ensure they choose the right candidates by prioritizing culture fit before skillset. This means getting a feel during the interview process for whether a potential hire is a personality fit for your organization and making sure they share the same values as your company. To help with this determination, consider changing up the traditional interview process in which a candidate sits in a conference room with a revolving door of current employees coming in to interview them. For example, take new hire candidates out to lunch or happy hour, or invite them to a non-confidential meeting and ask them to participate as they would if they were already part of the team. Past work experience is certainly important, but there’s no substitute for hiring someone whose positive, helpful attitude will ultimately trump any missed checkboxes on an interview questionnaire.

While the choice to be a working mom is never easy, I am fortunate to be at one of those companies that enables and supports its employees in their quests to achieve the often-elusive feelings of balance and happiness. All of this leads me to believe that there may very well be a formula to employee happiness after all, one that can be replicated across any organization, large or small.

Jen Agustin is the senior director of marketing at Bizo, a marketing technology company. Follow her on Linkedin.