Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not Making Employees Happy Interferes with Your Ability to Use them As Part of Your Machine

I'm all in favor of creating better workplaces that allow employees to be happier, healthier and more engaged with their work. Yet is the only way to frame this argument a financial one? Worker wellbeing is important because our business will earn more if we can keep them well?

The New York Times today ran yet another story about a social value framed entirely in market terms- how do these pesky humans influence our productivity and bottom line?

Here is the premise of today's article Do Happier People Work Harder?
Employee engagement may seem like a frill in a downturn economy. But it can make a big difference in a company’s survival. In a 2010 study, James K. Harter and colleagues found that lower job satisfaction foreshadowed poorer bottom-line performance. Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually. When people don’t care about their jobs or their employers, they don’t show up consistently, they produce less, or their work quality suffers.

This framing has the interesting effect of advocating on behalf of workers while still treating them as cogs in the wheel of corporate machinery, only valuable to the extent that they are increasing profits for the company.

The article speaks from the perspective of owners and managers and asks us to assume that we, the American people, the readers of this article, are the managers rather than the managed. For this most part this is not true. The vast majority of the American public is made up of those unhappy workers, not the managers.

Can't anyone argue that we should try to improve people's quality of life because then they would have a better quality of life?