Happy Workers: Perception, Psychology, and Reality

I know, many of you are thinking, “Happy workers? I just want them to come to work and be productive!” Don’t worry, I think today’s discussion will be helpful for you as well.

happy workersI spend an inordinate amount of time trying to determine how to make our people happier. Sometimes that comes in the form of removing obstacles, but it can also come in the form of ensuring that they know what they’re getting. Equity theory is a tool that plays into that. For instance, helping to educate employees on how your benefits or work environment transcend the market average can help them to feel better/happier, despite there being no real change made. A large part of this is simply how well you communicate things.

To keep the conversation targeted today, we’re going to look exclusively at the benefits realm. Even if that’s not your idea of fun, stick with me and we’ll see if we can learn something new.

What the data says

I received a news piece recently that focused on several topics surrounding employee satisfaction and happy workers, but one in particular caught my eye.

1 in 3 (31%) employees report that they do not believe their benefits are better than those offered at competitor companies


And as far as which benefits are most important to the employees surveyed, here’s the list:

  • 76% – medical plan/coverage
  • 72% – holidays/vacation/sick time
  • 62% – 401K/retirement/pension
  • 60% – dental plan/coverage
  • 27% – employee development/training
  • 26% – wellness programs e.g., health screening programs, exercise/physical fitness programs, or health insurance education
  • 26% – employee discounts e.g., commuter subsidies, gym membership discount, discounts on company products/services
  • 23% – tuition reimbursement
  • 21% – office perks e.g., free food and drink, casual dress, or a pet friendly office

Your job

In case you didn’t realize it already, your employer thinks it’s your job to 1) help people understand their benefits and 2) provide benefits that your employees care about. If you don’t know what your people want, definitely take some time to learn more about that.

That 31% of people who think benefits are better at other companies? That’s your target audience for these kinds of communications. How you communicate your response is key, because you want to avoid being condescending, but you also want to give solid information that allows them to judge the situation with all the facts at hand.

My experiences

This year I have a goal (not just a “that would be nice if…” but an actual performance-related metric!) relating to employee benefits. It’s my objective to do a better job of communicating our offerings, sharing some of the market averages, and educating our employees on how to make use of what we do provide.

  • Lifetime financial planning articles and lunch-and-learns
  • What disability coverage is, how it’s used, and how it impacts their family
  • What are the key impacts of the PPACA for individuals and how to prepare
  • How and why to use the employee assistance program

These are a few ideas, but you can see how they’re oriented: education. The better I can teach our people, the better equipped they will be to make sound decisions regarding the benefits we offer. It’s not cash wrapped in bacon, but it will do in a pinch.

Have you ever stopped to find out how your people feel about the benefits they receive? Do you offer any different/unusual benefits to your employees that might differentiate you from other employers?

3 thoughts on “Happy Workers: Perception, Psychology, and Reality

  1. Cari

    Statistically speaking, aren’t those 31% right? I mean, every company’s benefits can’t be better than every other company’s…that just doesn’t make sense.

    But in general, I do agree that you can improve job satisfaction by pointing out the many benefits employees aren’t even aware of. And that breakdown by priority is fascinating!

  2. neel

    Hi ben
    There is lot more than truth in the above article. Amazing and very useful information on keeping the employees satisfied. Is there anything more important than keeping your employees happy? Happy employees means High rate of job satisfaction which leads to higher productivity. Providing benefits like medical coverage, Leave plans and other perquisites help in attaining these benefits. HR managers have to identify the benefits that can successfully influence the employees, and it's equally important to communicate about how the benefit works. Employees tend to measure these benefits with competitors, so it is important for a HR manager to keep a track of the benefits provided by the competitor firms.

  3. Pingback: How Office Design Affects Company Morale | upstartHR

Comments are closed.