People & Leadership

Managing people: How to keep everyone happy

Use People Science to understand your employees

Despite your best efforts, when it comes to managing people, it can often feel as though you just can’t win.

With school leavers now joining employees who are working well past retirement age, and the differences potentially stemming from gender, businesses are becoming increasingly complex, multi-generational settings.

So, how do you ensure that everyone is content with their lot – and more to the point, motivated to drive your business forward?

Here are 5 common problems and how to tackle them.

1. Communication breakdowns

Some people prefer to text or email, while others favour face-to-face or phone conversations. Don’t just assume everyone likes to work in the same way. Instead, try to ensure a happy medium for everyone with a few ground rules for appropriate methods and response times, with a view to mixing it up a little for everyone if you can. This extends to the use of text speak, which can seem ridiculously quicker to some workers, but deeply annoying for others – irrespective of age.

  • Consider generational preferences
  • Be clear about your expectations
  • Encourage everyone to harness technology

2. Different schools of thought

Changing approaches to teaching and workplace practices mean that everybody will have their own methods. Embrace this diversity and adapt your own approach accordingly. Invite people to challenge established routines with a view to bringing about efficiencies for both your company and the customer and give them serious consideration.

  • Communicate your needs with everyone in mind
  • Encourage feedback and questions
  • Promote better understanding all-round

3. Degrees of separation

Your workers may spend hours at close quarters, but do they actually know each other? It’s common for people to want to stick with their own groups, so try and encourage people to mix more and find common ground. Older workers are in a position to share in-depth industry knowledge and experience, so encouraging younger workers to mix more can help nurture essential skills for your business.

  • Consider funding buddy lunches to encourage more interaction
  • Host meetings on topics that draw on people’s different skill sets
  • Pair people together on projects

4. Money worries

Take the time to talk to your employees and grasp the challenges they face – such as student loan payments, childcare fees, eldercare or retirement fears. Recognise that workers have different priorities at various lifestages, so use your benefits as an engagement tool and tailor them accordingly. Rather than attempting to second-guess what might work for someone, work with them to try and achieve the perfect balance.

  • Be flexible about your benefits scheme
  • Educate everyone about the rewards you offer
  • Leave the door open for future changes

5. Watercooler whispers

Be clear about what you expect from your employees and communicate your own plans/challenges as much as you can. Don’t leave people guessing about your intentions or motives. Keep your promises, but, above all, be honest on those occasions when you can’t – people will respect you for it. Take the time to congratulate people on a job well done too and try to offer guidance when mistakes are made.

  • Recognise where issues may arise
  • Encourage everyone to have their say
  • Take an individual approach

Interesting findings

  • The UK’s most cheerful workers can be found in Norwich (77%), Liverpool (76%) and Birmingham (74%) – Source: OPP, January 2016
  • According to the Office of National Statistics, a third of the UK’s workers are expected to be over the age of 50 by 2020. 22% of those are aged between 65 and 69 and this number is set to rise even further.
  • A study by economists at the University of Warwick has found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive – Source: Happiness and Productivity, University of Warwick, 2014