What Makes You Happy At Work?

I was recently asked to identify the key factors that make employees satisfied and engaged on the job.  Two theories came to mind, and both have proved themselves true in my experience in human performance improvement in a number of organizations. One is Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation Hygiene theory (aka Two Factor theory). Good description here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-factor_theory#Two-factor_theory_fundamentals. What I have seen most true about Herzberg is that if the employee likes the work itself (and the employer does  nothing to mess that up), he/she will tend to be most satisfied, engaged, and motivated. The other theory was that of Total Quality Management (TQM) guru W. Edwards Deming, described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_quality_management. The things I found especially true of Deming’s recommendations are paraphrased here:

  • Keep employees in direct contact with their customers (i.e., the people who are the beneficiaries of the employees’ work). This “de-compartmentalizes” their work,  humanizes it, let’s the employees see the results of their labors, and gives them a sense of accountability.
  • Involve employees directly–as experts–in continuously improving their own work processes. Give employees the authority to make decisions that will fix problems and delight their customers.
  • Make sure employees get feedback, but not punitive feedback, on how they’re doing.  Get the employees themselves involved in the measurement process.

What makes you happy at work?  Feel free to add your comments below.