What makes employees happy at work?

1. Warm-up
Which three of these things do you think are the most important factors in making people happy in their jobs? 

  • being listened to
  • fairness
  • flexible start and finish times
  • high salaries
  • generous holiday/vacation time
  • perks at work (perks are an extra advantage you are given because of your job, eg an employee discount or access to special services or activities)
  • trust and respect 

2. Watching for the main idea
Watch the full TED talk, “This is what makes employees happy at work” from speaker Michael C Bush, and check your three predictions from the last exercise. 

 

 

3. Watching for detail – Introduction
Before you watch the introduction again, add the missing vowels to complete three terms from the Introduction

Watch Part 1: INTRO (0:00-1:12)

  1. Increases in the company’s regular income = r__v__n__ __    gr__wth
  2. The buying and selling of shares and investments in companies = the st__ck    m__rk__t
  3. The rate at which the company has to replace workers who have left = __mpl__y__ __     t__r n__v__r

Now, take notes about how companies with a lot of happy workers perform in these three areas compared with companies whose employees are generally not happy. 

How important is it for a company to have happy workers? 

 

4. Watching for detail

Watch Part 2 (1:12-2:13) 
This part of the talk is about how showing trust and respect increases employees’ happiness. 

1. Before you watch, match the verb + object collocations from Part 2 of the talk. 

 

 Verbs

  1. empower
  2. approve
  3. service
  4. hand
  5. deliver

Objects

a. a laptop (or a purchase)
b. employees
c. the best service in the world 

d. the customer
e. trust (to an employee) 

 

 

2. Watch Part 3 again and then use the collocations to answer these questions: 

  1. What situation does Michael Bush describe that would not make an employee feel trusted?
  2. What example does he give that shows that a company trusted and respected its employees?

 

5. Watching for detail

Watch Part 3 (2:13 – 2:51)

This part of the talk is about how fairness increases employees’ happiness. 

1. Watch and answer these questions: 

  1. Who are employees comparing themselves with when they think of fairness?
  2. What did the company Salesforce do to make their business fairer?

2. Find words in Part 2 of the transcript (below) which have these meanings: 

  1. slowly reduces or destroys something (verb)
  2. without considering/thinking about (adverb – linking word of contrast)
  3. a position that someone has in an organisation, showing how important they are
  4. how long someone has been in their job (noun)
  5. skill or ability to do something well (noun)
  6. make something more equal or fair (phrasal verb) 

 

 

6. Watching for detail

Watch Part 4 (2:51 – 4:12)

This part of the talk is about how listening to employees increases their happiness. 

 

1. Watch and answer these questions: 

  1. What two common listening behaviours do we need to replace?
  2. If someone is practising good listening, what might they do after the other person has finished speaking?

2. Choose the best meaning for the words in bold from Part 3 of the talk, using the context to help you. 

  1. We’ve all been taught about active listening and eye contact an intense stare and a compassionate look.
    1. using your eyes in a strange way and an angry way
    2. using your eyes in a strong way and an understanding way
    3. using your eyes in a loving way and a passionate way
  2. Being humble and always hunting and searching for the best idea possible that’s what listening is.
    1. dissatisfied
    2. busy and hard-working
    3. not proud or not feeling you are the most important person
  3. The way you behave, the way you treat others, the way you respond, the way you support, defines the work experience for everyone around you.
    1. encourage other people to do well by offering practical help
    2. offer perks to reward someone for working hard
    3. allow someone to continue in their role
  4. Changing to be a better person the world is littered with those failures.
    1. dirty
    2. completely full of
    3. written
  5. But changing because there’s something you believe in, some purpose that you have …
    1. result of doing something
    2. way of doing something
    3. reason for doing something 

 

 

7. Discussion

Michael C Bush ends his talk by encouraging the audience to reflect on how they can change for the better. Think about how you might make a positive change at work or in a personal context, based on the three key points from the talk: 

• trust and respect

• fairness

• listening skills 

 

Video Transcript 

Part 1 Introduction (0:00-1:11) 

We survey CEOs, police officers, truck drivers, cooks, engineers. If people are working, we’ve surveyed them. And what we know, in terms of their happiness: workers all want the same things. There’s three billion working people in the world. And about 40 percent of them would say they’re happy at work. That means about 1.8 billion, or almost two billion people, are not happy at work. What does that do, both to those people and the organizations that they work in?

Well, let’s talk about money. Organizations that have a lot of happy employees have three times the revenue growth, compared to organizations where that’s not true. They outperform the stock market by a factor of three. And if you look at employee turnover, it’s half that of organizations that have a lot of unhappy employees. The miracle thing is, you don’t have to spend more money to make this happen. It’s not about ping-pong tables and massages and pet walking. It’s not about the perks. It’s all about how they’re treated by their leaders and by the people that they work with.

Part 2 (1:12-2:12) 

So I’d like to share a few ideas that create happy employees. Idea number one: in organizations where employees are happy, what you find is two things are present: trust and respect. Leaders often say, “We trust our employees. We empower our employees.” And then when an employee needs a laptop — and this is a true example — 15 people have to approve that laptop. So for the employee, all the words are right, but 15 levels of approval for a $1,500 laptop? You’ve actually spent more money than the laptop, on the approval. And the employee feels maybe they’re really not trusted. So what can an organization do to have a high level of trust? The first organization that comes to mind is Four Seasons. They have magnificent properties all around the world. And their employees are told, “Do whatever you think is right when servicing the customer.” To hand 

that trust to your employees to do whatever they think is right makes the employees feel great. And this is why they’re known for delivering some of the best service in the world. 

Part 3 (2:13-2:50) 

Idea number two: fairness. The thing that erodes trust in an organization faster than anything else is when employees feel that they’re being treated unfairly. Employees want to be treated the same, regardless of their rank or their tenure or their age or their experience or their job category, compared to anyone else. When I think about great organizations who get fairness right, the first organization that comes to mind is Salesforce. They found that men and women working in the same job with the same level of proficiency were making different amounts of money. So immediately, they calculated the difference, and they invested three million dollars to try and balance things out. 

Part 4 (2:51-4:12) 

Idea number three is listening. So, to be a listener who connects with all types of people, we have to unlearn a few things. We’ve all been taught about active listening and eye contact — an intense stare and a compassionate look. That’s not listening. Repeating what the person says — that’s not listening. Being humble and always hunting and searching for the best idea possible — that’s what listening is. And employees can feel whether you’re doing that or not. They want to know, when they talk to you and share an idea, did you consider it when you made a decision? The one thing that everybody appreciates and wants when they’re speaking is to know that what they say matters so much you might actually change your mind. Otherwise, what’s the point of the conversation? 

We all know the things we need to change, the things that we need to do differently. The way you behave, the way you treat others, the way you respond, the way you support, defines the work experience for everyone around you. Changing to be a better person — the world is littered with those failures. But changing because there’s something you believe in, some purpose that you have, where you’re willing to risk almost everything because it’s so important to you — that’s the reason to change. If it’s not, you should probably find a different place to work.