Employee happiness drives productivity

Employees are more productive when they are happy, rather than happy when they are productive, according to Simon Nash (pictured), HR director at law firm Carey Olsen.

Speaking at Employee Benefits Live 2013 on 25 September, Nash claimed that this common employer misconception of motivation is a result of organisations working with a ‘flawed model of success’.

“In most organisations, in most Western societies and in most heads is [the misconception] that if [employees] work hard they’ll achieve success, and if [they] achieve success they’ll enjoy happiness. But [that approach] doesn’t work for two reasons.”

Nash used an analogy of the UK education system to explain his first reason.

He explained that parents typically encourage their children to strive for A grade GCSE exam results, then go on to encourage them to achieve A grade exam results at A Level followed by a graduate placement and then a top job with development potential.

“Mentally, [parents] keep on moving success [criteria] and changing the goalposts, and what that does is deny [their children] ever getting to the place where [they] achieve what [they] set out to achieve.”

According to Nash, the second reason employers’ existing approach to employee motivation does not work, is because of their misunderstanding of how the human brain works.

“If [employees] are fully enjoying the present moment, then they perform at a higher functionality and see better results, not the other way round,” he said.

“So, as performance managers, our task is not about getting [employees] to work harder and keep goal setting, our task is to get [employees] fully engaged and enjoying what they’re doing now. Then, that activates the chemicals that make their brain work at a better level than when it’s experiencing negativity and stress.”