What makes some people happier than others? Why should one person seem so much happier and fulfilled in their career than another person with a similar background and interests? Those are major questions with serious implications for the workplace and few people have written as prolifically about them as Andrew Matthews.
The author has written multiple self-help books on happiness and has delivered more than a thousand talks to clients including Shell, McDonalds, Lenovo, Wal-Mart, Hewlett Packard, Toshiba, Honda and HSBC.
Like Matthews’ books, his talks — which come peppered with real-time cartoons – aim to simplify our understanding of how happy people think.
In the run up to one such talk, at the recent National Achievers Congress in Dubai, Engage Me got the chance to talk to Matthews about what inspired him to start his journey, how employee wellness and happiness have changed over time, and the evolving nature of what employees need in order to feel happy.
Engage Me: What inspired you to start writing about happiness and prosperity?
Andrew Matthews: When I was 25 I began to ask myself, “Why are some people happier than others – and why are some of my friends happier than me?” I made it my mission to find out how happy people think – and to learn to think like them.
I found so many self-help books too complicated and rather boring. I began writing books to share ideas that have been life-changing for me.
My aim was to write simple, entertaining books with cartoons that would reach the widest possible audience.
EM: Have you seen a shift in the way companies think about employee happiness since you started on your journey?
AM: When I began writing my books, companies rarely talked about happiness in the workplace. There were no seminars on being happy at work. Now the subject of “happiness in the workplace” – and monitoring it – is a very common.
EM: Do some corporates still approach employee happiness from a position of fear?
AM: Absolutely. To create a happier workplace you first need to find out what your employees don’t like about the company – what they don’t like about company policy, about management, about their pay packets. It is much easier not to ask those questions!
EM: What, in your experience, are the biggest drivers of employee happiness within an organisation?
AM: What creates employee happiness?
- Appreciation: employees want to know that their efforts are noticed.
- Employees need to feel that the organisation is making a contribution to making people’s lives better. If your organisation is providing a valuable service, or educating people, or improving their quality of life, you will feel needed. If your organisaton is cheating people – or overcharging them – or not delivering on its promises, you will never feel satisfied.
- Money is also important!
- The opportunity for advancement.
EM: What can companies do to drive employee happiness?
AM: Companies need to look at three things:
- Employees need to be appreciated – we all want to feel that we are contributing
- Employees need to have a sense of advancement and that their efforts are rewarded
- Financial – employees need to be rewarded for their input
It is important to take it back to the individual. After all, organizations are comprised of individuals. Remember that:
- Happiness is a choice
- We can be happy in spite of our problems
- We find in life what we look for – good or bad. If you go looking, you will find it. Create your own reality.
- Employers need to create a place where people belong
EM: Are there instances where organisations have employee wellness programs for the sake of it rather than providing any meaningful engagement?
AM: The best wellness program is the one that is part of the company culture. It is one thing to teach attitude and happiness in the classroom. It is another thing to have management live the principles as part of what they believe in. What management practices, filters down. It starts from the top.
EM: What do companies lose out on when they don’t look after their employees’ happiness?
AM: Firstly, we spend so much time at work – if we are unhappy at work, we have no quality of life.
Here’s the research on how happiness affects performance:
- Happy managers solve problems 20% faster.
- Happy surgeons make 20% less mistakes.
- Happy salespeople sell 56% more insurance or perfume or hotel rooms or helicopters.
- Happy workers take less sick days. Happy companies spend less time and money replacing unhappy employees.
All this means that happy companies make bigger profits.
EM: Do companies spend enough time listening to their employees when it comes to looking after their happiness?
AM: Most don’t but it is getting better!
EM: What can employees do if they find themselves in a role they don’t like?
AM: Sometimes we will find ourselves in roles that are really not a good fit. In such circumstances, it is always important that you give of your best – always! This is the only way to feel happy – when you are giving of your best. It boils down to self-respect. While I am doing this, I will do it as well as I can.
EM: Have you seen an evolution in what employees believe they need to be happy? If so, where are we likely to see that going next?
AM: In many western countries the trend has been toward less working hours – and employees usually believe that less work hours will make them happier. But the evidence is that this is not the case.
Appreciation (respect) for employees, a sense of mission and good remuneration will always be key. In addition, all need the opportunity to improve our skills/education and the prospect of promotion.