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A recent Wall Street Journal Article titled, “Happy in Their Work” was about the fact blue-collar workers are generally the most optimistic in America.  The article goes on to discuss how they feel in general about their working situation and their lives.  As an employee retention speaker and employee retention author, I have always believed that if a person is “happy” they will remain with an organization.  I look back at my career as an HR leader and in those places and times that I was “happy,” I stayed with the employer.  But, happiness is elusive, hard to define and varies from person to person.  That’s what makes keeping people “happy” in their work so difficult.

As an employee retention trainer, I contend that an organization’s goal is to make people “happy,” so they stick around.  I have found that people who are “happy” are also very engaged in their work.  They tend to put more into it.  I have seen a lot of people who stay with an organization who are simply miserable, and they don’t put a hell of a lot of effort into what they do.  They do a bare minimum.  That’s not good for the organization and, if they are unhappy it’s not good for them.

Because happiness varies so much by the person, the only way I know of to start on the journey of making your people “happy” is to ask them what makes them “happy.”  That means asking each and everyone of them.  In some cases, people won’t even know what makes them “happy” but it’s a starting point and you have to start somewhere.  When I work with my employee retention clients, I often have their immediate supervisor ask people what makes them “happy” as part of an exercise to get to know what makes their people tick.  By simply asking, you might actually be helping that person to find the happiness they seek because it will force them to think about it.  Knowing has to start somewhere and this is the only way I know of to find out.  Ask.

Some people would say this employee retention speaker is a lunatic with this article and asking your people what makes them “happy.”  I say, if you are struggling with employee retention and engagement in your organization, you are a lunatic if you don’t ask.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So, get out of your office, talk to your people and ask them, “Are You Happy in Your Work?”  Who knows what you might find out.