How to Truly Satisfy Your Employee, According to Harvard Research

Beyond paychecks and office perks, a Harvard professor reveals a profound truth. The key to contentment isn't material rewards but the acknowledgment of one's efforts. Dive into why recognized accomplishment trumps all other incentives.

September 2, 2023
Mohit Sahni
How to Truly Satisfy Your Employee, According to Harvard Research

In the corporate maze, there's always a buzz about what truly keeps employees ticking. Is it the hefty paycheck at the end of the month? The fancy job title? Or perhaps the alluring office perks like free lunches and game rooms? But what if the real secret to employee happiness isn't found in any of these? 

What if it's something more fundamental, more intrinsic? According to a Harvard Business School professor, there's one standout factor that holds the key to employee contentment. And no, it's not about the size of their wallet or the view from their office window. It's about being recognized for their accomplishments, about knowing that their work truly matters.

The True Value of Employee Happiness

When you picture a thriving workplace, what comes to mind? Perhaps it's state-of-the-art facilities, innovative projects, or impressive revenue charts. But beneath these tangible indicators, there lies a more profound metric, often overlooked: employee happiness.

It's not just a feel-good factor. Employee happiness is a potent business catalyst. Study after study highlights a simple truth: happy employees work harder. It's not about clocking extra hours but about the quality, creativity, and dedication they bring to each task. Their enthusiasm becomes infectious, elevating team morale and driving projects forward with a zest that's hard to replicate.

Moreover, happiness isn't just about boosting performance in the present. It has long-term implications. A content employee is more likely to stay, reducing turnover rates and the associated costs of hiring and training new personnel. They become brand ambassadors, their satisfaction radiating beyond office walls to potential clients and recruits. And here's a kicker: happiness makes people functionally smarter. It's as if joy fine-tunes the brain, enhancing decision-making, problem-solving, and innovative thinking.

Decoding Happiness: Myths vs. Reality

The quest for the secret sauce of employee happiness often takes us down some well-trodden paths. We think, surely, a fatter paycheck will spark joy. After all, doesn't everyone want to earn more? Or perhaps it's about status, with high-flying job titles and corner offices being the coveted trophies. Maybe it's the culture – those hip workplaces with bean bags, team outings, and no-jerks-allowed policies.

But here's the twist. Dive into the data and these commonly held beliefs start to crumble. Higher pay and elevated job titles, while appealing on the surface, don't correlate directly with increased happiness. Whether you're in a blue-collar role or a white-collar one, the happiness meter tends to hover around the same mark. Similarly, the nonprofit versus for-profit debate? It's a draw when it comes to job satisfaction.

Harvard's Golden Nugget

When it comes to unlocking the mystery of employee contentment, Arthur Brooks, a renowned professor from Harvard Business School, offers a refreshing take. It's not about the paychecks with many zeros or a corner office view; it's about something profoundly human. Brooks insists that the cornerstone of happiness in the workplace lies in a "sense of recognized accomplishment." It's about feeling that your contributions at work don't just vanish into the ether but are noticed, valued, and celebrated.

In a candid conversation with HBR, Brooks delves deeper, answering the pivotal question: What kind of jobs truly make employees happy? The surprising revelation? Neither higher pay nor a grandiose title guarantees happiness. Blue-collar or white-collar, for-profit or nonprofit - employees across the spectrum report similar levels of job satisfaction. 

So, if money and status aren’t the magic potions, what is? It boils down to a sense of achievement and the recognition that comes with it. When employees feel that they're genuinely making a difference and that their achievements are acknowledged, that's when they truly shine.

This insight reframes our understanding of job satisfaction. It’s not about external accolades but an internal recognition of value. Employees crave the validation that their work has meaning, that they're driving change, and that this change doesn't go unnoticed. As Brooks succinctly puts it, happiness stems from "earning success" and feeling that you're "creating value" both in your life and in your professional journey.

The Universal Craving

Employees, regardless of their role or rank, have an innate desire to be seen, acknowledged, and validated. This isn't just about vanity or seeking praise. It's a deep-rooted psychological need that ties back to our very essence as humans. When our efforts are recognized fairly, it sends a signal that we're valuable and that our contributions matter.

Arthur Brooks' insights shed light on this very sentiment. He suggests that beyond the trappings of high pay or lofty job titles, what employees truly crave is a transparent and genuine acknowledgment of their contributions. It's about feeling that their efforts are moving the needle, making a difference, and being noticed for it. When there's a clear and direct link between what an employee does and the recognition they receive, it fosters a sense of purpose and belonging.

Yet, many organizations miss the mark here. They pour resources into bonuses, perks, and other tangible rewards, overlooking the simple act of genuine acknowledgment. But the truth is, when employees see their hard work reflected in the company's success and feel a personal connection to that achievement, it creates a powerful motivation loop. 

It's a reminder that their role, no matter how big or small, has a meaningful impact. Happiness, in this context, springs from the simple joy of knowing one's work resonates and leaves a mark.

When Purpose Outshines Pay

When it comes to rewarding employees, many companies instinctively reach for the financial lever, thinking bonuses or raises are the ultimate tokens of appreciation. While fair compensation is undeniably important, it's not the sole ingredient in the recipe for genuine job satisfaction. 

Adam Grant's research at Wharton drives this point home. In a compelling study, call center workers who heard firsthand how their efforts changed someone's life saw a whopping 20% jump in revenue. It wasn't a bigger paycheck that fueled this surge, but the profound realization of the impact of their work.

So, before you consider adding another zero to a bonus or installing the latest office gadgetry, take a moment to reflect on the essentials. Do your employees genuinely see the value of their contributions? Do they feel acknowledged and appreciated for the difference they make? In the quest for a happier workplace, it's clear: a sense of purpose and genuine recognition far outweigh the allure of monetary rewards. Meaning, it seems, truly does trump money.

Physical Wellbeing

A big workout once a week is just as good as daily exercise!

December 24, 2022
The Wellness Tribe Team
One big workout once a week is just as good as daily exercise!

As a physiotherapist, I often hear from my patients that they do not have time to exercise every day, whether during corporate wellness sessions or during individual sessions. With busy schedules and a never-ending to-do list, it can be tough to fit in a daily workout. But here's the good news: you don't have to exercise every day to be healthy! In fact, one big workout every week is just as effective as exercising daily.

Testing Your Limits

Now, I know what you're thinking. How can one intense workout per week be as effective as daily exercise? The key is pushing yourself to your physical limits during that workout. When you challenge your body with a high-intensity workout, you are giving your muscles and the cardiovascular system a much-needed workout. 

This kind of intense exercise has a greater impact on the body than moderate exercise, so even though you're only working out once a week, you're still getting a good workout.

The Connection Between Exercise and Mental Health

The Connection Between Exercise and Mental Health
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

One big workout per week has numerous benefits. Exercise that is intense and regular can improve your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that promote feelings of happiness and emotional well-being. You can boost your mood and reduce stress by engaging in a challenging workout once a week.

Another benefit of one big workout per week is that it can help you avoid burnout and injury. Overdoing it with daily exercise can lead to fatigue and a higher risk of injury. By allowing your body to rest and recover in between workouts, you can prevent burnout and keep your workouts safe and effective.

Now, I want to be clear that the one big workout-per-week approach isn't for everyone. If you have specific fitness goals, such as losing weight or training for a marathon, you may need to incorporate daily exercise into your routine.

A Few Precautions

One Big Workout a Week: The Surprising Health Benefits According to a Physiotherapist
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Additionally, if you are new to exercise or have chronic health conditions, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new fitness routine.

But for the majority of people, one big workout per week is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So next time you're feeling overwhelmed and don't think you have time for daily exercise, remember that one big workout per week is just as effective. And who knows, you might even find that you enjoy it more than daily exercise! 

"Exercise is a celebration of what the body can do, not a punishment for what you ate." — Kevin NG. 

So grab your sneakers and get moving – your body (and mind) will thank you.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, the key takeaway is that consistency and effort are more important than the frequency of workouts. As long as individuals are able to regularly engage in physical activity that challenges their bodies and promotes overall wellness, they can experience the numerous benefits of exercise regardless of how often they do it.

Personal Wellbeing

Retention - Attrition Spelt Backwards

December 5, 2022
The Wellness Tribe Team
Retention - Attrition Spelt Backwards

We are in the midst of layoff season. While the world is shocked to see large internet companies like Meta and Twitter fire employees, the Indian startup scene has also suffered. So, what led to this, what is happening now, and what is yet to come? 

Race to Mass Layoffs?

Adding to the difficulties in Silicon Valley is the possibility that Amazon will announce layoffs that will affect up to 10,000 workers. Following Microsoft, Twitter, Snap, Meta, and Twitter, Amazon is the next big tech company to lay off employees. There has also been a decrease in recruiting at Apple and other companies. 

In the wake of fears of a worldwide recession, technology companies, traditionally large spenders, are now turning to cost-cutting.

Mass Firings: What Led to This?

From January 1 to June 1, 2022, the market capitalization of the top 30 technology companies decreased by $4.3 trillion. These 30 companies represent the majority of the value of the global tech market.

At least $5–6 trillion was lost in the global listed tech market as a whole. The top 30 businesses account for $4.3 trillion of this. In actuality, the combined contribution of Apple and Microsoft to this market value decline is close to $1 trillion. 

From June to August 18, the market value of the top 30 tech companies experienced a $900 billion recovery.

What's the situation in India?

Many edtech companies have let go of employees, including Byju's and Unacademy. It was reported that Unacademy had laid off 1,150 employees, while Byju's laid off 550 employees, not far behind Vedantu, which had laid off 624 employees.

Meanwhile, MFine laid off 600 workers, Ola fired 500 people, and Cars24 reported 600 job losses. In all cases, layoffs were caused by tighter monetary policies and a correction in the stock market.

How About the Attrition Rate?

In addition to layoffs, IT organizations have experienced high attrition rates. Labor costs and the cost of acquiring talent led to squeezed operating margins for all IT majors during the previous quarter.

During the first quarter of FY23, Indian IT companies spent, on average, 57% of sales on employee salaries, with some, like Infosys, raising their top performers by one or two digits. TCS's attrition rate for Q4 of FY22 was 19.7%, much higher than Infosys's 17.4%.

In Q4FY22, HCL Technologies experienced an increase in attrition from 21.9% to 23.8%. However, Wipro has managed to keep attrition rates relatively stable, dropping from 23.8% to 23.3% between April and June.

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