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International Women’s Day 2019 – How to ensure everyone is happy

Gemma Shambler | 8th March 2019

“International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” – United Nations

Happy International Women’s Day everyone! This is a day to celebrate equality, acceptance and contribution.

To fulfil my purpose as Head of People, it’s so important to me that everyone has the same opportunities to progress, develop and be the best versions of themselves… regardless of age, ethnicity, gender… or anything else outside of our control! This should be commonplace in 2019… but sadly it’s not. Think back to how often you have read a piece on the “Gender Pay Gap” or #MeToo in recent years?

Here at The Happiness Index equality is at the heart of everything we stand for. The nature of our product means we also have plenty of insight from the millions of data points we’ve collected externally, which clearly highlights a disparity between men and women when it comes to workplace happiness. I’d like to think we’re all in agreement that this is something that needs to change?

Our study into workplace happiness for ALL workers

Driven by our mission to ensure everyone has the “Freedom to be human” and is happy at work – we compiled our own global study into workplace happiness and the factors which most affect it.

Sadly, women scored lower than men across 7 out of 10 measures of workplace happiness. This clearly suggests that the gender pay gap isn’t the only issue affecting women at work. Female workers still have concerns in other areas which are simply not being addressed or dealt with properly. I expected there to be some disparity but I was shocked how unhappy women are at work compared to men.

The most notable areas where women scored lower than men were:

  • Career development opportunities – This is the most serious issue our results highlighted with women rating their happiness at 5.8/10. This is most concerning to me as developing people is my genuine passion and I can’t understand why organisations fail to address this.
  • Being able to speak openly and honestly – This may explain why women scored a lower rating for 70% of the questions. If they don’t feel empowered to be open and honest and express their feelings without fear of repercussions – they are bound to be unhappy in lots of areas. Openness is vital to all workers’ happiness.
  • Feeling fairly rewarded for their work – If your female workers don’t feel like they are being fairly rewarded or paid enough for their hard work then they will feel highly unvalued. This is catastrophic for the individual and the business. Feeling valued was the single most important factor when it comes to workers’ happiness across all demographics. So it’s essential to ensure that women don’t feel like they are being short-changed in this area!

In light of these findings and in the spirit of International Women’s Day I implore you to be regularly speaking to all your people to truly understand how they’re feeling. Only when you know your people well can you really see differences in their behaviours and spot when something isn’t right.

In response to our findings above, here are my top tips:

Keep investing in people’s development

It’s almost impossible to make your people happy if they feel like their careers are stagnating.

Career development is such an important component of employee engagement. By meeting with all your people regularly and discussing targets, you can create a vision of what success looks like together. In my experience, people are more likely to be motivated to succeed when pursuing self-determined goals.

In my honest opinion, it is essential for managers to have a genuine interest in people and seeing them succeed. If they do, then delivering a motivating, constructive appraisal will play a key role in the happiness of their team members.

Ensure everyone feels valued 

Employees want to feel valued as individuals, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want higher pay! From our experience, financial rewards provide a short-term boost to employee happiness, with recognition based on making someone feel valued having a longer lasting effect. Investment is reciprocal, so if you invest in them, they’ll return the favour. It’s as simple as that!  

With this in mind, it’s good for companies to be imaginative to create ways to show employees they are valued. Such as:

  • Implement tailored programmes designed to reward and recognise employees at all levels.
  • Reward people with equity.
  • Seek feedback often to highlight how much you value everyone’s opinions.
  • Celebrate good work and contribution.
  • Speak to people in person and not just via email.
  • Take the time to get to know people & take a genuine interest in the whole person – not just the ‘role’ they fulfil at work
  • Ensure people feel a sense of purpose and know how they are contributing to wider company success.
  • Say thank you! It’s easy to forget how far a simple ‘Thank you’ can go
Be empathetic to everyone’s needs

Empathy is the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and thought-processes. To be an empathetic leader, you must think beyond yourself and instead consider what your people would want and what would make them happier.

Here are some quick techniques to help you learn to be more empathetic.

  • Ask questions and reflect.
  • Listen to understand – not just to have your say.
  • Recognise and validate people’s perspectives.
  • Gather staff feedback and create action plans off the back of it to ease concerns and build on successes.
  • Consider alternative options – flexible working arrangements for example.
  • Be authentic.
  • Demonstrate self-awareness.
  • Never stop learning from people at all levels.

Summary

Our research clearly highlights that no one company or sector seems to stand out when it comes to ensuring all their people are happy at work. It also clearly shows that male workers are happier than female workers at all levels and in companies of all sizes.

We’ve ALL got a part to play in ensuring Women AND Men are happy and treated equally and fairly at work. If we can simply be good human beings to one another, surely that’s something we can all commit to and would make a difference to at least one person we work with?