But hope is not lost. In many cases, top talent will choose a job that brings them happiness and a sense of purpose over one that comes with the perception of glamour. Robert Half’s study identifies six factors that influence employee happiness. Here’s what marketing organizations can do to create the ideal work environment.
1. Ensure New Hires Are the Right Fit for the Job and the Company
Companies should be looking for candidates who not only fit the job description, but, more important, the team with whom they will work. Choosing a not-so-great fit can make or break the morale of an entire team, experts warn. Hiring the best candidate should be a methodical process that keeps company culture in mind.
That culture, the Robert Half study finds, is most ideal when it’s part of a small shop; employees at smaller companies tend to be happier than employees of larger corporations.
However, not everyone can work at a small company. For those hiring at a Fortune 500 company, for example, the key is to focus on small teams or a specialized department. “In the business world, there will always be a place and need for startups and big companies,” explains Diane Domeyer, executive director at the Creative Group, a division of Robert Half that specializes in connecting creative, digital, and marketing talent with companies looking to hire. “Professionals can find happiness at any size organization. While our research shows satisfaction levels tend to go down as company size goes up, much of a person’s happiness at work hinges on being in the right organization and the right role.”
2. Give Employees a Real Sense of Empowerment
Critical input should not come solely from top company executives; to keep employees happy and engaged, everyone should have a chance to contribute toward the growth of the company in one way or another. At Scrum50, a South Norwark, Conn.–based ad agency, “everyone is involved in the creative process,” explains Michael LeBeau, the company’s co‑founder and managing partner. “That includes brainstorm sessions, campaign ideation, creative reviews, etc. Over 50 percent of the company has a ‘creative’ title.”
Offering a chance to provide input is one thing, but Scrum50 goes beyond that to give employees a real chance to take ownership of projects.
Scrum50, awarded the No. 14 spot on Ad Age’s 2019 Best Places to Work list within its size category, describes itself as an agile advertising agency. It uses a fast-paced iterative process to develop projects on the quick. Staff are grouped into “scrum teams” that are dedicated to a particular client’s business, LeBeau explains. Each scrum is co-owned by a product owner and a creative director. “They are joined at the hip,” he says.
Instead of entering the organization only to perform menial tasks for senior staff, young professionals at Scrum50 are paired with a seasoned employee and jump directly into owning and working on projects, giving them opportunities to make a mark early in their careers.
3. Let Employees Know Their Work Matters and That It’s Appreciated
Recognizing employees for their hard work can go a long way and can easily help maintain employee happiness, the study finds. When giving praise, managers should be specific, timely, and fair, not always singling out one person or delaying a compliment.
“Our research shows that for millennials, a sense of accomplishment is the strongest determinant of happiness,” Domeyer explains. “Employers should make sure all employees understand how their work impacts the company’s bottom line and help them see a connection between what they do and the organization’s core mission and broader business goals.”
At Scrum50, appreciation for employees involves ensuring they have a voice. “Our business model is based on challenging the status quo,” LeBeau says. In building the company in 2014, he and his co-founder envisioned a team of passionate individuals who carried strong beliefs that they would bring to each client’s business. “We created a flat, open, and safe environment where opinions could be shared and challenged with no repercussions.”
4. Give Teams Interesting and Meaningful Work
Employees want to know that their work is not just for a “job,” but is worthwhile and valuable, the Robert Half study finds.
“Employers can help foster a positive workplace culture by adding meaning to their jobs,” Domeyer says. “Assign individuals a variety of projects and make sure they understand how their contributions support your organization’s overall purpose.”
Organizations can emphasize meaningfulness by explaining how the work supports the company vision, but also by granting employees opportunities to apply meaning to their own roles. Let employees attend training during business hours or send them to industry conferences as a way to build a learning environment, Domeyer says. “Show your staff you are invested in their long-term career growth — invite guest speakers to present at team meetings,” she advises.
Many industry professionals would agree their companies don’t take enough creative risks, Domeyer notes. She suggests giving employees more than just work to do: give them meaningful things to accomplish. “Support smart risk-taking by assigning stretch projects and difficult problems to solve,” she says.
5. Develop a Sense of Fairness
Fairness has become paramount in recent years, and rightfully so. The smallest misstep in fairness can lead to an employee seeking a new opportunity at another company or even in another industry. Being upfront and transparent about pay and compensation is a good first step to ensure a sense of fairness in the workplace.
Similarly, it’s important for organizations to adopt policies that appeal to workers and fulfill their sense of what a company should do for its employees.
As the baby boomer generation continues to enter retirement, millennials have become the largest segment of the workforce. According to Domeyer, employers can attract and retain millennial workers by building a corporate culture that emphasizes ongoing professional development, something members of that generation have signaled is an important factor when considering a company as a potential employer. “Work-life balance is also a priority, and perks like flexible hours and remote work options can go a long way toward improving happiness levels,” she says.
6. Foster Positive Workplace Relationships
Having a good team can truly hold a company together. Many companies are good at building camaraderie with their teams, but good relationships go beyond work-related tasks. “The marketing and creative industry also requires a lot of collaboration and interaction among colleagues,” Domeyer notes. “Our research shows that those who have good relationships with their co-workers are 2.5 times more likely to be happy on the job.”
Managers have the power to bring positivity to everyone on the team or teams, as well as forming relationships across teams. These crossed-over relationships can form a more interconnected company overall.
Ultimately, employers and employees both play a major part in workplace happiness. “Employers need to promote a positive organizational culture to attract and retain great people,” Domeyer says. “And employees need to be proactive about asking for what they need to be happy — if they feel stuck in their roles, they need to manage their careers and plan next steps.”
By Shondrika Cook