By MaryLee Herrmann

Somewhere in a box in my basement is a tattered copy of the paperback Happiness Is a Warm Puppy. I was an avid reader when I was a kid, and this was the one comic strip book I read over and over. Looking for the answer to true happiness I guess. Something comforting in knowing happiness could be universal.

Happiness Is … an Inside Job

What does my childhood philosophic reading list have to do with your employee retention? Everyone on your team wants that too … happiness. And as many hours as they spend on the clock, if they aren’t getting those vibes in your community, then either it’s going to show in their attitude or they are going to leave in search of happier grounds.

It’s a known fact that employees will stay at jobs even when better-paying offers are made if they like the people they work with. If they feel valued as part of the team.

And let’s face it, if one person isn’t happy, it’s likely others feel the same. And with social media as ubiquitous as it is, word gets out, and now you not only have people leaving, recruitment suffers too.

3 Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Happy

Nick Waslien, founder and CEO of Savant (formerly CareQuality), a Foresight partner, understands the exact reasons your employees aren’t happy. He learns it firsthand from the staff surveys they conduct.

He gets a lot of in-depth, robust information because the surveys themselves are in-depth and robust. His team does text surveys at critical points (like shortly after hiring or training) and then live phone calls featuring trained interviewers who engage in actual conversation. The purpose is to reduce staff churn, create a happier workplace, and help with recruiting new talent.

In a recent interview with Steve Moran, Nick said that much of this discontent, or unhappiness, could be easily resolved, and even avoided, if employers understand where it is coming from. Pulling from Patrick Lencioni’s book The Truth About Employee Engagement, Nick shared three things that he agrees can be the difference in creating a happy, positive environment.

[Want to see one of Savant’s surveys? Check out the form at the end of the article!]

  1. Anonymity

    People want to be seen. They want to be understood and appreciated. Sure, they want to be part of the team, but they also want to be seen for their unique qualities and contributions. It can make a person’s day having someone in a leadership position personally give them kudos. Engaging in personal conversation lets them know you see them and they matter.

    Even something as simple as “How was your weekend?” can make a critical human connection. “I see you, and we’re both working here together.”

  2. Irrelevance

    People want to know that their job, what they are doing, matters. Residents are likely to express their gratitude, which can be heartwarming. However, having their efforts acknowledged by their director can raise an employee’s personal satisfaction to another level.

    Beyond a simple pat on the back, the specifics of “I realize we’re short-staffed and you’re working hard, and I’m genuinely happy with how you’ve taken the extra time to redesign the activities calendar. Thank you so much,” can go a long way.

  3. Immeasurement

    I know what you are thinking — “That’s not a real word!” As Nick explains, this is a term Lencioni created to define the need for employees to be able to quantify and understand their contribution. They know where they started, so as they develop within your organization, they want to know, “Am I making a difference?”

    Robust training, whatever the new staff member’s job function, can really come into play here. According to Nick, the interviewers so often hear in surveys that a trainee was thrown out on the floor and expected to learn on the go, which can lead to anxiety — especially since most people want to be good at what they do and poor training doesn’t set them up very well for confident, strong performance.

    Thorough training — making sure they know what their job entails, what to do, how to do it, and when to do it — leads to clear job expectations. Then management can provide constructive feedback based on those expectations, allowing an employee to gauge their progress and measure their contribution.

If They’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

It isn’t easy to know how everyone is feeling about their job. This is where Savant surveys are invaluable. As Nick points out, you can “pull out a lot of comments and context as to their happiness or dissatisfaction in the current role, which can be used as actionable feedback to improve not only that person’s job but also the entire culture at that community.”

Savant measures all three areas — anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement (and more) — by asking employees to rate their experiences in various categories. More importantly, the trained call interviewers take it further, asking for specifics, so you know exactly what’s working and what they would like to see improved.

You Get a Puppy, and You Get a Puppy

You aren’t going to give every person on your team a puppy (or are you?) to ensure no one is miserable. But doing what you can to inspire a happy, positive workplace atmosphere is a great way to let your employees know they matter and increase staff retention. 

For a sneak peek at one of Savant’s surveys, fill out the form below! Their trained, live-call interviewers use surveys like this as starting points for in-depth conversations to uncover root causes and show you how to maintain a healthy, positive, lasting community. In fact, in this survey, you’ll see the actual prompts and follow-up questions the interviewers are trained on to get the most context-rich, actionable feedback possible.

View a Survey Sample