How to Grow an Engaged, Productive, and Happy Workforce

You might ask: “Is it possible to achieve these three things in your workplace?” Researchers say yes!

And when you learn how to do that, the results are impressive. One of the leading researchers on this topic is Harvard professor Shawn Achor. He says when you learn the strategies of growing an engaged, productive, and happy workforce, sales go up 37%; productivity shoots up 31%, and accuracy on tasks goes up another 19%.

So what does it take to build that kind of workforce or build that kind of momentum and morale in your organization? Or in your school or family? Let’s unpack a few answers right now.

► 1. Do something every day to make others feel important.

That might sound somewhat nice and cutesy and not all that sophisticated. But it’s what the great teachers have been telling us to do for a long time.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor.” Not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it works.

20th century philosopher and humorist Will Rogers said, “There is a law of relationships just like the law of nature. It’s as difficult to separate the sun from the sunshine as it is to separate the love of your work from the love of the people you work with.”

In other words, if you see your coworkers as important, if you make them feel like they’re important, if you make them feel like their work is important, you’re going to build a much more engaged workforce. And when you win over the hearts and minds of others by making them feel important, you also crowd out the complaining and griping which is the hallmark of so many unhappy, unproductive workplaces.

Of course, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways they can make others feel important.

Here’s one of them, and it’s a biggie. When change initiatives are taking place in your organization, give your people a voice in shaping that change. That doesn’t mean you have to accept all their ideas, but it does mean that employees must feel their ideas are important enough that they were at least heard and considered.

That’s what happened to Randy Thiele, a sales manager for the Donaldson Company. He knew all about the importance of employee engagement and experienced it first-hand when he attended my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program. Randy says, “I actually hung on every word of Dr. Zimmerman’s — no distractions, no daydreaming, and no dozing off. That’s never happened to me at a 2-day seminar before.”

To increase engagement in your workplace or even your family, do something every day to make the other people around you feel important.

► 2. Stop thinking and saying self-deprecating words.

Remember our topic today is all about creating a more engaged, productive and happy workforce. Well, that can’t happen if you and others in the workforce have fallen into the bad habit of putting themselves down. That’s anything but happy.

Instead, treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness that you’d show to others. Suppose things were going badly for a friend or colleague. You wouldn’t say, “You’re right, Joe. You really are a loser. Things look pretty hopeless for you.”

So if you wouldn’t do that to a suffering friend, why would you berate yourself? It doesn’t make any sense. Replace your self-deprecation with self-appreciation and you’ll be adding an extra dose of positivity to your workplace.

Todd Livingood, working at the world-famous medical clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, did that with wonderful results. Todd says, “I’m still using the affirmations you taught us at your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program and just recently completed my Master of Arts in Health and Human Services, a dream for nearly two decades. I want you to know that your program was a big part of the turnaround in my life. Thank you so much for the Journey class.”

Please join me for the next and last Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience. Register now for a huge October savings.

► 3. Outlaw the badmouthing of others.

In unhappy, unengaged, unproductive workplaces, you typically hear a great deal of badmouthing. People are trashing their coworkers and their companies, both privately and publicly.

I experienced that a while ago with an airline known for lots of labor unrest. After we landed at LAX, we sat on the tarmac for a good hour waiting for someone to tow us up to the gate.

Of course the people were eager to get off the plane and they were restless. They had other planes to catch and people to meet. But the pilot got on the P.A. system and told us, “Don’t complain to me about sitting out here on the runway. Tell the company president. He may listen to you, but he won’t listen to us pilots.”

His one comment destroyed a few million dollars of airline advertising. We no longer believed the ads we saw on TV, the ads that told us how much that particular airline worked together as a team and cared deeply about its customers.

I would say that’s true in all organizations. If the staff is badmouthing your organization, how can you expect the customers to say good things about you? As one of my clients, Bruce Rueben from the Minnesota Hospital Association, said, “The hospital staff is the biggest PR group that any hospital has. If your staff is unhappy, everybody knows.”

When I hear people badmouthing their companies, I want to tell them to shut up. They shouldn’t be telling me. They should be working it out with their coworkers and bosses back on the job. So I advise my clients to outlaw the badmouthing of others. It will never work to your advantage.

The same advice applies to the home front. Kate Henderson talked about the advice her mother gave her the night before her wedding. Her mother said, regarding husbands, “Always stick up for him. Don’t discuss important matters before dinner, and lastly, never tell me about your arguments.”

Kate asked, “Why shouldn’t I tell you about our arguments?”

Her mother said solemnly, “Because you may forgive him, but I never will.”

That’s the danger of badmouthing. It gets in the way of an engaged, productive, and happy workforce or family and puts up a block to future cooperation.