Research by Time magazine within the past year indicated that less than half of American workers are satisfied with their jobs. According to a 2011 Citrix survey, 72 percent of American workers are not engaged in their work. The poll described disengaged workers as literally "sleepwalking through the day."
According to a Gallup poll, the lost productivity of actively disengaged workers costs the U.S. economy $370 billion per year. Study after study links poor employee satisfaction and engagement with greater absenteeism, lower productivity, high rates of turnover, decreased customer satisfaction and a slew of other issues that negatively impact the bottom line. Ironically, the same Gallup poll reported that 75 percent of leaders had no plans to address engagement even though 90 percent agreed that engagement impacts business success.
If having happy employees is good for the bottom line, then why don't more employers proactively address issues around satisfaction and engagement? Some leaders simply don't see it as their responsibility to make employees happy. A business owner may hold the opinion that people should just be happy to have jobs! Leaders often assume that dealing with employee issues and the challenges of hiring and firing are just part of doing business. Others concentrate relentlessly on increasing sales. They don't see the connection between people and profit.
Kris Boesch, founder and CEO of Choose People, is passionate about helping companies improve employee culture in order to drive business results.
"A positive employee culture is critical to the financial success of any business. Companies simply cannot afford to have unhappy employees. If you want happy, loyal customers then you must also have happy, loyal employees."
Choose People begins its process by measuring response to one question: "Do your employees feel good about coming to work?" They then provide leaders with the roadmap and the tools to address key opportunities and issues.
Boesch believes that "many business leaders have a strong desire to create happy work cultures. They either don't know where to begin or they fear it will be too costly."
Boesch appreciates these concerns. As a business owner and entrepreneur, she can relate to the pressures employers are under. "Small changes can have a significant impact when it comes to creating a happy work culture. And, it is not about throwing money at people. Bigger salaries and more vacation time do not necessarily equate to higher levels of worker satisfaction."
Through extensive research with CSU, Boesch identified eight critical factors to having employees feel good about coming to work.
According to Boesch, one factor looks at impact. "Workers want to be recognized for their contributions and they want to be held accountable. Employees want to understand how the work they do furthers the success of the organization. Employees crave inclusion. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is excluding employees from solving problems. Leaders need to educate their employees on how the company works. The more employees know, the more they feel included. They want to be on the inside and help the business succeed. It's frustrating to be on the outside. This is just one of the reasons employees disengage and go elsewhere."
Employers cannot afford to lose good people. Recruiting and retaining the talent necessary to keep business moving forward is an ongoing challenge for most organizations. Despite persistently high unemployment rates, employers continue to bemoan the fact that they cannot find qualified candidates.
Companies claim to be receiving large responses to their postings and yet they say few applicants are worth hiring. Companies of all sizes blame a lack of available talent for slowing their growth. Holding on to key talent is another issue. If you want to see what fear looks like, ask a business leader what they would do if several of their top performers gave notice tomorrow. The time and cost to hire and train new talent stalls company growth and progress.
When an employee voluntarily leaves in search of a better work environment, they generally don't walk blindly into the next position. The same is true for a person who has been through a painful layoff. They want to land in a better place. So even in this competitive job market, a shift is happening.
It is becoming less of a buyer's market in which employers drive the hiring process. Fed up with lengthy online applications and dead-end recruiting practices, talented candidates are turning the tables. The job search begins by identifying companies with exceptional products and services as well as reputations for treating employees well.
Job searchers tap into their networks in order to get the inside scoop about potential employers. Online resources, such as Glass Door (www.glassdoor.com), offer an inside look at jobs and companies. Employees post anonymous comments regarding a company's culture, benefits, salaries, and leadership style. Armed with knowledge, job searchers then market themselves directly to organizations that match their values and needs. Super savvy candidates are maneuvering around HR and talking directly to hiring managers. Much like consumers who use their buying power to support socially and environmentally responsible companies, more and more people want to put their skills to work for organizations that promote positive people practices.
Companies known for being great places to work spend less money recruiting and they have lower turnover. They have agile hiring processes and welcome being courted by proactive job searchers. This means they have less need to post positions. A steady stream of applicants and employee referrals continually fill the hiring pipeline. Additionally, these organizations are often able to cherry-pick top talent without having to sort through hundreds and thousands of applications and resumes. As business needs expand, they can more quickly access the talent needed to meet the increased demand.
There is a movement toward a consumer-driven job market. Not everyone has the luxury of being selective about where they work. Yet more and more people expect employers to provide a positive environment. Sustainable profitability will be reserved for companies that pay close attention to the experience they provide for employees and customers. Imagine a world in which every person was happily engaged in meaningful work. What if all employees felt valued and appreciated in the workplace?
Boesch puts it this way, "When we make work better, we make the world better. When people are happy at work, they are much more likely to show up happier at home and in the community."
This is the ultimate bottom line that we can all work to improve.

Carrie Pinsky also writes the Career Enthusiast blog.