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Employee happiness as a recruitment and retention tool

13 May 2022 3 minutes

Only a few decades ago ‘enjoying work’ or being happy at work wasn’t a big deal, we went to work to pay the bills and thought nothing more of it. But happiness and satisfaction at work has risen up the agenda with only 2% of people now saying they work just to pay the bills.

Why has workplace happiness become important?

We’ve seen drastic changes in the workplace over the past few decades, including the invention of the internet – many of us now work in positions that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. You only need to think about the vast range of jobs and industries that have evolved from it – we have SEO Experts, Social Media Managers and Ecommerce specialists to name a few.

90% of us say being happy at work is important, yet over half of us are unhappy in our jobs. The pandemic has been a catalyst for further change and made people re-evaluate their lives, bringing about dramatic societal shifts.

Across the UK, employers are struggling to recruit and retain staff and redundancies are at their lowest level since the mid-1990s. A recent survey conducted by Microsoft of over 30,000 of their global employees revealed that 41% of workers considered quitting or changing professions in 2021.

Employees are saying ‘so long, farewell’ to employers who perhaps treated them badly during the pandemic and embracing SMEs that can provide the flexibility and work/life balance that many of us now crave, having had a taste of it during lockdown.

Employee happiness as a recruitment and retention tool

Creating a happy workplace should be considered as an essential recruitment and retention tool for employers.

Happy employees improve retention

On average happy employees stay four times longer at a job than unhappy employees* meaning lower employee churn and less time spent recruiting replacement candidates. When unhappy employees start to hand their notice in, it can snowball, leading to more resignations and creating uncertainty for remaining colleagues.

Positive company culture

Culture is built from within – happy employees create a positive work environment where people want to work. Not only do our brains work better when they are positive, happiness is contagious. Seeing other colleagues that are happy can bring a positive energy to the work environment.

According to University of Warwick research, happy employees are 12% more productive. A good company culture usually means employees are more engaged, more committed and feel more valued which all contributes to employees feeling like they are doing meaningful work and can make an impact on a business.

Happy employees are a magnet for talent acquisition

In a modern workforce, ‘job hopping’ is no longer unusual – employees know they have other job options available and aren’t afraid to look for them. Employees who love their job are advocates for your business, making you appear attractive to others who are unhappy in their career, influencing their decision. A company that elevates employees and champions them can lure the best talent.

What makes employees happy?

Before you start investing in pool tables and hammocks, it’s important to understand what employees want from work in a post-pandemic world.

The first thing that often pops into employers’ minds when asked what makes employees happy is ‘more money’ but that’s not always true.

Meaningful work

Many people want to do more ‘meaningful work’ with a greater sense of purpose. Employees want to feel they are part of something bigger and that the work they undertake has a purpose or benefits the greater good – whether that’s saving the planet or helping to make other people’s lives better.

‘Flow’ – uninterrupted work that’s challenging (but not too challenging!)

First defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘flow’ is a state in which you become completely immersed in what you are doing.

To reach a state of ‘flow’ you must have the ability to focus your attention on a task that is complex enough to stretch your abilities but not so difficult that the outcome is outside your current skillset.

Unfortunately, 21st-century work makes ‘flow’ difficult to achieve. Constant digital distractions, open-plan offices, hot desks, and endless meetings make it near impossible to concentrate on a task for more than a few minutes, let alone hours.


Outside of these two core elements that lead to employee happiness, there are other needs that post-pandemic workers want employers to provide. For example, flexible working hours, the ability to work at home a few days a week, and yes, perhaps a pay rise to cope with rising inflation.

How can I nurture my employees’ happiness to help retain them and attract the best talent?

Creating a happy workplace and enjoying all the benefits that flow from it is simple (on paper).

Below are some of our top tips:

  • Go for the win-win option – for example, when it comes to working from home, allow for as much flexibility as you can afford. Most employees are looking for a hybrid model where they can work from home two to three days a week. If you can accommodate this, negotiate the office-based days to ensure you have your team present for essential meetings and training junior members of the team.
  • Encourage disconnection – allow your employees the space to focus on meaningful tasks by introducing email free times during the day or one email-free day during the week if possible. In addition, have a policy that no one is expected to answer emails after a certain time in the evening and on weekends.
  • Communicate how each employees’ role makes a difference – Have a clear mission statement and values, not only for your customers and investors but also for your team to ensure they feel that their time spent at work is contributing to society in some way.
  • Make your employees feel valued – remember to say thank you, it costs nothing but it’s important for employees to feel recognised and valued. Create a reward and recognition scheme that rewards employees frequently. More frequent rewards and positive feedback leave a longer lasting impression than a one off token gesture.
  • Encourage taking regular breaks and spending time outside – there is ample evidence to show that being in nature reduces stress and promotes wellbeing. Encourage your employees to get away from their desks at lunchtime and go for a walk or sit in a nearby park.
  • Create a nice working environment – create a space where employees feel inspired and comfortable to work in, think plants around the workplace, a splash of colour here and there, some appropriate artwork. Make your workspace a place where people want to come to work and enjoy being in the space.
  • If appropriate, let employees bring their dogs to work (with strict hygiene and safety guidelines in place). The evidence showing the positive effect of dogs in the workplace is well-established and many of the world’s most forward-thinking companies such as Etsy and Google encourage employees to bring their canine friends into the office.