I recently read the book Well Being: Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. It’s a quick read, focusing on five different aspects of our lives that the authors believe most significantly contribute to our wellbeing as people. The five different aspects of wellbeing they identify are Career, Social, Financial, Physical and Community.
When we think about our lives, most of us tend to emphasize one of these areas above the rest. For one person, it might be Financial, for another Physical, and for a third Social. However, the most interesting part of the book for me was how these five aspects of wellbeing interact and influence each other. In this blog, I’d like to highlight a few of these interactions, and how they can help us become better leaders and managers.
Most bosses want what’s best for their people. In that regard, I found two insights about Career Wellbeing particularly helpful. First, people who rate high in Career Wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall. This probably isn’t surprising, but clearly Career Wellbeing influences every other part of our life. So a boss who wants to improve an employee’s life overall need look no further than improving the employee’s job fulfillment. Second, and probably more interesting, people with high Career Wellbeing view the same amount of pay much more favorably than those with low Career Wellbeing. In other words, given the same salary, people that feel good about their job are significantly more content with their pay than those who make the same amount of money but are unhappy in their job. Again, maybe not surprising, but helpful information for a leader who wants to retain good workers at a fair wage.
I also found helpful the authors’ comments about helping employees focus on and operate within their strengths. The research showed that if a manager helps an employee focus on their strengths, the chance of them being “actively disengaged” in her work is just 1%. In other words, an employee who is able to focus on their strengths almost always feels engaged with their work. In addition, employees who get to focus on their strengths are six times more likely to feel engaged with their jobs, and three times more likely to report an excellent quality of life than those who don’t get to focus on their strengths. So, if you want to help a person who works for you have more overall wellbeing, overwhelmingly the most important thing you can do for them is to help them function in an area of strength.
My final takeaway from this book may be the most important. According to the authors’ research, the one factor that determines job satisfaction more than any other is whether the employee perceives that their immediate supervisor cares about them as a person. If an employee’s direct supervisor cares about him as a person, he is more likely to be a top performer, more likely to produce high quality work, and less likely to change jobs. Seems like a relatively simple way to improve performance in a business, while at the same time making employees happier.
So what’s the take-away from all of this? If you want the best for both your company and for your employees, work hard at making your employees’ jobs rewarding and meaningful. Don’t just throw money at them. Of course people always like receiving more money. But, at the end of the day, feeling appreciated, feeling cared for, and operating in one’s strength zone makes the biggest difference in how people view their jobs, how well they perform and how much overall wellbeing they experience in their lives.