The Future of Shiny Happy People

What is happening in the workplace around the world? Economic data of the past few years paints a mixed picture of productivity across various countries. 

Productivity is a mix of factors including enterprise, innovation, investment, skills and competition. But one key factor that drives productivity is : workers' happiness.

The most productive workers are also the happiest ones. The iOpener Institute for People and Performance has collected data on the issue since 2005, showing that the more unhappy and insecure at work you are, the less effort you put in.

For a second year, The Wall Street Journal (Europe) is running a global happiness at work index in partnership with the iOpener Institute to find out who is happiest at work.

Its earlier research found a raft of benefits that happier employees bring to their organizations in terms of productivity. Happier workers are twice as productive, take 10 times less sick leave and stay five times longer in their jobs than workers who are less happy. Moreover, happier employees meet their goals 31% more, are 36% more motivated and help their co-workers 33% more than their least happy colleagues. In effect, a company loses about 100 days of work annually for every "unhappy" worker.

The Wall Street Journal research suggests that both individuals and organizations should focus on five major drivers of individual productivity that lead to higher overall performance and happy employees.

These key drivers include effort, short-term motivation, how well workers fit into the organization's culture, long-term commitment and self-belief.

Let's take long-term commitment for example. Feeling stuck in your job drains your energy at best and makes you ill at worst. Believing you are doing something meaningful and valuable, on the other hand, means you will put all your knowledge and skills and passion into what you do and will want to stay longer with your employer. This is particularly important to millennials, who will form a central part of the future workforce. Without feeling they are doing something worthwhile, this new generation of workers will rush to the exit - with bigger financial incentives unlikely to win them back. So, Generation Ys need to believe in the strategic direction their organization is pursuing. To keep them, employers need to persuasively and regularly communicate the corporate strategy and give clear evidence that the strategy is being implemented and that it brings greater benefits than just boosting the bottom line.