What Makes Employees Feel Happiest at Work (It Isn’t Salary)

What Makes Employees Feel Happiest at Work (It Isn’t Salary)

Research shows that happiness among employees fuels performance and achievement, resulting in a competitive edge many companies crave.

By Sonia Thompson, Marketing strategist, consultant, and author 

In the book The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor laid out an abundance of scientific evidence proving that “happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result.” The research shows that happiness among employees fuels performance and achievement, resulting in a competitive edge many companies crave.

But although the data points to why cultivating a happy culture is a smart growth strategy, many businesses struggle with how to do so. As a result, far too many companies end up with a workforce that is disengaged and draining more value than they are contributing. No bueno.

Thankfully, one company did the work to give you some insights on what employees need most to feel happy at work, as well as how to deliver on that feedback.

What really makes employees happy at work

Dapulse, creators of a workplace collaboration tool designed to help teams operate within a culture of transparency, conducted a survey of 10,000 of its users. In their research, they asked a simple question:

What makes you happy at work?

Leah Walters, head of communications at Dapulse, gave some insight into the findings:

“Of the eight attributes that we offered people to ‘rank the order of what makes you happiest,’ salary came last. It came last amongst the manager section, and it came last among general working employees…Of course, there’s this certain amount of money that people need to survive, and that’s very important, but beyond that, people are looking for different kinds of things.”

She noted that the attributes that rose to the top of what drove employee happiness was working for a company that was best in its field, supported innovation, and had the kind of culture that they wanted to work in.

Company culture, their data noted, is rising to the top as a reason why employees love going to work each day. And increasingly, businesses are working to incorporate attractive perks that help contribute to positive culture.

But Walters noted there’s a simpler way to increase the happiness of your team members:

“We work in the startup space and see different types of perks whether it’s office space or extra vacation time, or food and that kind of thing. But at the end of the day what we are learning time and time again from our users, and also as a company ourselves is, it is how you personally feel your work is being valued that makes you happier.”

She went on to add:

“Perks aren’t necessarily the contributors. It’s really smaller things. It’s the basic level of humanity, it’s feeling like what you do is valued, recognized, and appreciated.”

How to build a culture the breeds happiness

Strong leaders know their team is their most valuable asset. But they also make sure their team knows it. Thus they make it a point to show their teams that they are valued and their work is appreciated.

For some, that means ensuring that each employee knows how their work contributes to making life better for the customers they serve. They are able to see clearly how their work fits into the big picture of what the company is working to accomplish.

That means making sure that everyone has an opportunity to interact directly with customers, to get a clearer view of why the business’s mission is significant. Companies such as Amazon, Front, and Kayak encourage team members across all departments to participate in customer service calls to ensure they have a clear view of the needs of their customers.

In addition, strong leaders also make a point to regularly celebrate employees for a job well done. Snack Nation does this by having a weekly “Crush It Call” where the team comes together to recognize other team members hard work over the last week.

There are countless ways to create a culture of happiness within your company. You just have to make it a priority and be willing to try new things to find something that works for you.

When you do, not only will your team be more productive as they enjoy their time at work, but your company will reap the many proven benefits that come when your team is happy as well.


The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.