An Easy Way to Make Your Employees Happier

By Liz Wiseman Reviewed by Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC

Liz Wiseman illustrates a key nonfinancial method of working to increase your employees’ satisfaction—challenge them! She opens the article by recounting that employee satisfaction and fulfillment in the United States, as well as the world, is declining. The article sites Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report which finds only 13 percent of people worldwide feel they are engaged in their workplaces.1 The article goes on to note that different companies are responding to this downward trend in employee happiness in various ways, and employing tactics that range from making department heads accountable for the satisfaction levels of their teams to establishing fun perks such as free massages or catering lunch for staff.

If you are after employee fulfillment, this article cites a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study that cites the top driver to employee satisfaction is now “the opportunity to use skills and abilities” and that this response is consistent among the survey takers across age, gender, company size, and employee tenure. Wiseman further notes that not only do employees want to use their skills and abilities but they also want to be pushed to use these skills. For her other book, Rookie Smarts, Wiseman researched and found a linear correlation between an employee’s current level of satisfaction and current level of challenge in their job.

Wiseman also describes a few signs and behaviors to watch for that may signal that the employee is ready or in need of additional challenges in his or her work. Her message—check in with your employees and realize they may be ready for a change sooner than you think.

Finally, she outlines three ways to challenge your employees. These include:

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  • “Increase the degree of difficulty.” Be sure to do this in ways that are matched to the person and the resources they have available.
  • “Turn them into rookies.” Give them projects or cases that are outside of their comfort zone. Make sure you match the project with the type of person that will be comfortable figuring things out as they go and that they have some skills that carry over to the project at hand so they will be successful.
  • “Pivot them to a new problem.” For physical therapists this is a great one. We have an existing knowledge base in musculoskeletal care but may get stuck working with a specific population of patients. Maybe this is the case of an orthopedic physical therapist that has treated a sports population for years but then you ask them to head up a new geriatric joint program.

Wiseman warns this approach to employee happiness requires what she terms “mindful leadership” in that you need to monitor their progress while giving them the freedom to figure out aspects on their own.


1. State of the Global Workplace. Gallup Web site. Accessed March 27, 2015.

The article can be found at

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