Low Wages - 31 January 2013
If your wealth quadrupled over the next two decades, you’d be a happier person, right? Most people would say that, yes, to be four times richer would be a major step closer to happiness. Well, that growth in wealth is precisely what happened in China in the past 20 years … but the level of happiness there has actually declined.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals people in China are less satisfied with life than they used to be, while other studies have reported approximately 500 protests a day and a rising rate of mental illness. So, overall, not the happiest of countries. Of course, this is not isolated to China. Many other wealthy nations are experiencing similar issues.
Such a lack of correlation between wealth and happiness exists within the working world, too. The amount of pay that employees receive does not equate with happiness. It’s true that a great salary can be an effective way of attracting talented people to work for you, and it may even prevent some from resigning – but in terms of increasing engagement, the research indicates it doesn’t work. Not in the medium-to-long term, anyway.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of the five commonly traded organisational currencies developed by professors at Babson College and Stanford University. If you can’t afford to use extra cash to recruit and retain people, or if you’re smart enough to know that no amount of money will create real and sustainable engagement, then consider whether any of the following can be incorporated into your workplace as a substitute.
Task-related currencies: These can be as simple as providing employees with additional assistance, freeing them from having to do banal activities, responding quickly to any problems that arise, and providing timely and reliable information.
Position-related currencies: These represent things like promotions or alternative opportunities for advancement. It also includes recognising people’s accomplishments, showing gratitude, and creating collaborative networks.
Relationship-related currencies: These require the development of close bonds, giving personal and emotional support, listening to employees’ concerns, and trying to understand them as people rather than as resources.
Personal-related currencies: These are about providing challenging and stimulating tasks that build employees’ skills. It’s also about granting people ownership over their work, empowerment to make decisions, and giving them influence by involving them in projects.
Inspiration-related currencies: These are reflected in meaningful jobs that make a positive and noticeable difference. It’s also about the pride in working for an ethical team that values excellence, and especially in working for a boss that prioritises each of these five currencies.
As the old saying goes, the best things in life (and work) are free.
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