Happy at Work

By Ahmed Wafi

They say if you take care of your people, your people will take care of business.

Richard Branson once said: “Clients do not come first, employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

So how do you keep employees happy? If you think money is the way to go, then you’ll be surprised that only 22% of Malaysian talent cite monetary benefits as their reasons for staying in an organisation. What’s more important? A positive career path and passion for the job make up 75% of the most common reasons to stay.

This view is echoed by Dennis Tan, Head of Human Capital at Great Eastern Malaysia, Malaysia’s most preferred employer in the insurance industry. He believes that “Compensation is a key motivating factor when a candidate is considering a job offer but it should not be the only one. I truly believe that a great work environment is essential in retaining talents.”

According to Tan, a happy work environment is one where “employees are happy with their role, the leadership, and the department overall, and this translates to great working relationships. It’s also an environment where flexibility is provided, and employees are given the freedom to accomplish their tasks in ways that are most effective to them, which results in greater accountability and creativity.”

Apart from higher employee engagement and retention, a happy work environment ultimately boosts the organisation’s employer brand. “The ripple effect of a happy work environment is an employee’s own testimony about what it is like working in the organisation,” he explains.

Here are more of what makes a happy work environment according to Tan:

  • Wellbeing of Employees The post-pandemic work environment will prioritise employee wellbeing because now, even more than ever, an organisation must ensure employees are safe and healthy
  • Appreciation and Recognition Acknowledging an employee’s hard work with a simple ‘Thank you, you did a great job!' might seem trivial to some but it actually does wonders to their motivation
  • Creating the Right Culture A culture that focuses on doing the right thing, taking the lead, and prioritising 'we' over 'me
  • Making Work-Life Balance a Priority Because employees are people too, playing different roles with different responsibilities

According to Tan, applying these principles in Great Eastern Life Malaysia has seen a record low drop in its attrition rate from 9.3% in 2019 to 6.8% in 2020!

The topic of workplace environments cannot be discussed without also addressing the dangers of a toxic workplace. A toxic workplace is bound to zap the life out of you and contribute to dangerous levels of stress.

How can you tell if you’re in a toxic work environment? Tan believes that office politics, bad leadership styles such as micromanaging or the ‘divide and conquer’ style will breed toxicity.

However, management isn’t solely responsible for a toxic work environment as staff that are not collaborative and choose to work in silo will also breed this. Tan explains that “favouritism also kills a good working environment, especially when employees mistakenly perceive their peers as the boss’ favourite.”

Regardless of the cause of a toxic work environment, management plays a huge role in ensuring toxicity is rid of. “Most of the time, a top-down approach is needed to weed out issues that create a toxic work environment. A manager must not only manage but lead the team so they must address the issues that are creating office politics and practice fairness and transparency.”

What happens if you are an employee in a toxic workplace? Bring it up to your supervisor, says Tan. “These are delicate conversations so it takes a skilful hand to handle these conversations, which is why in Great Eastern, we provide leadership training and coaching to all managers so that they can better handle these situations.”

Lastly, Tan reminds managers, executives and leaders alike to “minimise politicking and competition among peers because competition is only good to a certain extent.”

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