Updated: Dec 8, 2022
I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. You don’t have to take my word for it; in fact, this is the first time I’ve ever made this claim. But for years, when people first take a bite of my cookies, they react the same way: first, their eyes get big. Then they look at me intently, and with a mouth full of sweet, buttery, salty goodness, they say, “These . . . are the best . . . chocolate chip cookies . . . in the world!”
I love to bake. Lots of people have told me I could have a new career selling these cookies, and it seems like it would be a natural fit. But I see insurmountable problems: cookies have a low price point; they taste best the day they are baked; and as much as I like making them now, I think my enthusiasm might wane if I made them every day for ten hours.
Many of us have been told to follow our passions, to lean into our gifts and not to worry about making money. And most of us have largely ignored that advice: as much as we may love whittling or playing the banjo, we turn to jobs in sales or accountancy or education for the security and income.
So here we are, not following our passions. Does this mean we are unhappy at work? Unfortunately, most of us are. The reasons for our unhappiness vary from lack of job security to insufficient pay. On the flip side, companies with happy employees reap a lot of benefits, as this nifty infographic makes clear:
Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%. Happy employees are 12% more productive and take 10x fewer sick days. Happy salespeople sell 37% more. People with a close friend at work see a 50% jump in their job satisfaction.
So happiness is an essential goal. But what can managers and executives do? Your employees may have a passion for miming or fantasy football or gardening, but you probably don’t have a need for those skills. Fortunately, one of the top keys to employee happiness is the opportunity to use their skills and abilities. It turns out that we don’t need to pursue our niche passions to be happy with our career choices, but we do need to feel like we are making a significant contribution to something that matters.
“Can’t we just bring in donuts on Fridays or email recognition certificates?” you might wonder. For some employees that might work. But all employees share the need to be known, to be seen as more than a data point or a faceless contributor to the bottom line. On Forbes.com, Rodd Wagner writes:
Happiness is personal. Large organizations often fall into the trap of treating people like widgets – cogs in the machine. They expect people to mold themselves to the demands of the jobs rather than making the most of what each individual brings to his or her position. . . . If you’ve got a great manager who understands you, your odds of being happy at work are automatically higher.
Getting to know and understand your employees, their unique personalities, their skills, abilities, interests and values, is easier than you might think: have them take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment with a certified MBTI practitioner who will verify their type in a one-on-one session. There’s a reason MBTI has been the most widely used personality test since its inception in 1943. Schools and businesses—including 90% of Forbes 100 businesses—rely on it to identify the inborn preferences that help make us who we are. Giving your employees a chance to know themselves better will boost their happiness, because they can find ways to achieve meaning in their lives when they know what motivates and inspires them. Once you know them better, you can properly position them to use their strengths in ways that benefit both employees and companies.
I had a client named Anna who was an ENFP: a personality type shared by many performers. True to type, Anna was a folk singer with a lovely voice and an engaging onstage presence. She was doing what she loved, but the money wasn’t following. Once she learned her type, she became open to other careers. Anna now works happily in marketing, which allows her to use her creativity, her love of the spotlight, and her people skills while still giving her time to sing outside of work. She is fulfilled in her career because it uses her strengths and gives her financial security.
“Know thyself,” said the ancient Greeks. Know thy employees, say I. Understanding personality type is a shortcut to achieving a high rate of employee happiness, but that’s not all. In the coming weeks we will explore other ways personality testing can improve the health of your company. If you are interested in hearing more about the MBTI services The LMC Group offers, please contact us at email@example.com.