The happy workforce – who does it best

The happy workforce - who does it best

Ensuring that your employees are satisfied with the work they do is both an important and sometimes challenging task. However, get it right and the rewards are certainly there to be reaped.

Job enjoyment was listed in a survey of 1,000 workers by the Institute of Leadership and Management as the top motivating factor in the workplace, with nearly two-thirds admitting that there was nothing else in comparison that would encourage them to try harder.

However, it's also a tough thing to achieve because the issues surrounding it are so subjective. So what's the best approach to keeping your staff happy and what difference does it make? 

Several major US companies are well-known for taking an alternative approach to keeping their workers on-side. Here are two examples.

Google – three steps to happiness

Google is renowned for encouraging an innovative culture when it comes to its employees and isn't afraid to break new ground in its attempts to get the best out of its workforce.

From the typical benefits like healthcare, pension and childcare to free canteens, crazy offices and giant games rooms, the company has taken seemingly every approach to show its employees that it cares.

Nevertheless, it's not as simple as giving staff everything they might need to have a good time. Google also takes a very thorough approach towards being open with its employees when it comes to what it going on as far as the business is concerned.

One of tactics Google employs is having junior members of staff take notes at senior level meetings, with the purpose of then relaying that information back to the rest of the workforce to keep them in the loop. The idea behind this open approach is to "give meaning" to the jobs that the workers are doing – so they can see how their day-to-day routine affects the echelons of the Google hierarchy.

Senior vice-president of people operations Laszlo Bock explains on Google's blog: "People look for meaning in their work. People want to know what’s happening in their environment. People want to have some ability to shape that environment.

"These three components of our culture create a virtuous cycle of attraction, community, engagement and innovation."

Netflix – a new look at annual leave

Like Google, Netflix is another brand that has job perks that almost precede the company itself.

Staff working for the video-on-demand service are given an unlimited vacation policy. While this may at first sound chaotic, here's how it operates – employees can spend as much or as little time away from the office, as long as their work is completed.

This encourages a culture of "freedom and responsibility" the company told Bloomberg, with workers being trusted to keep on top of their workloads and being justly rewarded for living up to that expectation. In a sense this is similar to Google's approach on the basis that staff members have a say in how the company is being run – or at least how they are managed.

So what can you do?

One of the main similarities between the two companies in question are that staff are given more freedom and in any business – regardless of size – this can be easy to implement.

Using Netflix's example, even if you feel as though you can't afford to give everyone unlimited vacations, giving them the option to work from home whenever they like could make a massive difference. Another knock-on effect of this is the demise of the 9-5 working culture – allowing workers to pick their own hours to accommodate their home lives. 

However, there's one key issue to consider here. These are American companies, operating mainly out of the US. While their approaches have been somewhat adopted within their UK offices, is it a style of leadership that would suit businesses in this country as a whole?

There is definitely an argument that the whole thing could be seen as a fad, that ultimately leads to employees working even more hours as they struggle to catch up after overrunning on their time spent at the pool table.

Regardless of this, taking advantage of conference calling to help facilitate this could genuinely be the first step towards a happier workforce – the games rooms and free cafes can always come later.