Recently, I was speaking with an organization about their continuous improvement efforts. As we were exploring some of my more recent work and research in the area of better understanding people in the workplace, I was asked “what is one thing people can do to improve the workplace?” 

In the past, I would have said that if each person could make one improvement to the work, then you’ll have a better workplace. However, now I say that if each person can make a change that would help make them enjoy their work more or have their job work better for them personally, then you’ll have a better workplace. 

So why the shift?

In our research, we have looked at various well-known models in the field of psychology to gain insights into what people need from their work and what motivates them. Through the course of this research, my perspective changed.

Part of the reason for our research was to support workplace challenges caused by the pandemic and organizations have become acutely aware that they need to better understand the needs of their people.

How does this change how we approach work?

The workplace is designed to get the work done and often people are treated as a means to that end. There are jobs that need to be done and we hire people to get that job done and give the customers what they need. 

But, is there a way to get the work done that also meets the needs of people in the workplace? Based on what we know about happiness in the workplace, this would in turn benefit the organization and the customers. It’s a win-win.

To achieve this, we need to be more aware of how individuals function and how to tend to their needs. Most importantly, we need to think of this from an individual perspective, not the workforce as a whole. 

A change in one impacts all

Most metrics related to people reflect an aggregate measure. For example, our people have so many hours of training and development on average. Yet each individual has the need to learn and grow. How many people in your organization can you afford to feel stagnant and bored? Most approaches to development seem to be targeted at specific groups, which leaves many individual needs unmet. 

So, when considering how to improve your workplace to be an employer of choice, it can be hugely helpful to look to the field of human development and psychology for some of the answers. Another option is to simply ask yourself what makes you happy? What motivates you? What demotivates you? The answers to these questions can also shed light on your team’s needs. 

We need to make the connection that what’s good for our people is good for the organization. 

If you’re wondering how to make your job work better for you, here’s a list of items to consider:

  1. Find a project to work on that connects to something you’re passionate about. 
  2. If you like spending time with others, increase your time with teammates. 
  3. If you are feeling bored, explore opportunities to learn new things. 
  4. If you hope to run your own business someday, consider where in your job you can build business skills that you can use in your next phase of work. 

How does your organization make individual happiness a priority? How has it benefited your organization and your customers? I’d love to hear from you let’s chat.

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