For World Happiness Day today, we asked leaders across the HR world on their thoughts about employee happiness and what the term meant for them. Here is the reaction:

Kevin Keohane, Managing Director, BrandPie Creative Strategists™ and author of Brand & Talent (Kogan Page, 2013)

Company culture is a complex thing. It’s like an iceberg. So often the visible symbols – the funky furniture, the foosball table, the in-house café – get confused with what really matters.  It’s the stuff below the waterline that actually matters most.

Human motivation is even more complex.

If you read any study about what makes people stay at a company, pay and benefits are seldom at the top of the list. Instead, you often see things like having great colleagues, doing meaningful and challenging work, having a voice, and working for a company that makes a difference.

People very rarely join a company in a ‘disengaged’ state of mind. That’s something poorly run companies do to people over time. So to me, one of the greatest ways to make people happy at work is simple: Tell them the story about what the company stands for, what it is trying to achieve, how it is going to get there and what every individual’s contribution is; the role they play. In simple, clear, easy to understand language. And make sure every system, process and communication lines up to that story – and certainly doesn’t contradict it.

Sounds simple enough, but few companies do it well. Show me a company where people are inspired by a purpose, an ambition, and the role they play, and I’ll show you a company with happy people. Even if the don’t have funky furniture and foosball tables.

Jayne Carrington, MD, Right Management Workplace Wellness

A happy employee is one that feels valued by their organisation, feels aligned to the business’ vision and mission, and feels empowered to make a positive contribution. People spend a large portion of their time at work, so it’s important that businesses create a working environment that is pleasant and motivating with a culture of honesty and good employee relations. This way, businesses result in more productivity, better performance and greater happiness.

The role of the line manager is becoming increasingly important. HR professionals can help train managers on how to spot the signs of happiness and unhappiness, encourage them to find time for their employees and build a good rapport with them. Something as simple as saying “good morning” and genuinely asking how they are can make a difference to an employee. Having regular face-to-face check-ins is also important, and even more so for virtual workers.

However, the spirit of an organisation starts at the top. Ultimately, happy employees work in organisations that have strong leadership and where health and wellbeing is at the heart of the business strategy. HRs need support from the board and together they can raise important questions to address the ‘happiness’ status of their organisation. Questions such as ‘what are we doing to make work good for health?’ and ‘what are we doing to make work bad for health?’ are important. In order to assess how happy employees are, HR professionals need to stay on the pulse of the organisation’s morale and monitor work-related stress absence, pay attention to exit interviews, note the reasons why people leave, and establish how easy it is to hire new employees.

Like any relationship, it’s a two-way process whereby both employer and employee play a role in making their workplace a happy one. An unhappy employee can be toxic in the workplace – it’s contagious, so encouraging a can-do attitude amongst employees and making time to listen to them is also key.

Penny Davenport, business coach and career mentor

Set your employees a clear direction for a career in your company. Where are they going? Give them signposts and mile markers so that they know what they need to do and when they’ve reached the target. Everybody performs better if they know what is expected of them and if they are rewarded, in some sense, when they get there.   In other words, they need to know what success ‘looks like’ to succeed and be happy! This will not only help employees achieve at work but will reduce friction which is a great cause of unhappiness.  Ultimately an employee who is more focused and understands his/her role, will get better results and be happier!  Add in a nice gesture such as a drinks trolley on Friday afternoons or a Birthday card.

Wendy Pauley from S1 Jobs

We are wired to pay attention to the negative. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just how our brains have developed. However, it does mean that you have to make a conscious effort to notice the positive things in your work day.

To start things off, you probably have to be pretty heavy handed: at the end of each day, write down three things that you think went well, or are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering, just something that made you smile or made you feel good.

You should start to see results after just a few days, as your brain will start to actively seek out these positive things. Once it starts doing that, you should notice a significant lift in your mood.

Think you’ll find happiness in that pay packet? Think again.

Money isn’t everything; in fact as long as salary is sufficient to fund their lifestyle, a pay rise is unlikely to have a lasting effect on employee’s motivation. Rather, it’s the work itself, and the opportunity for training and personal development that will have a real impact on how happy an employee feels at work.

If they can see where they are contributing to a team and feel proud of that contribution, then you will have one happy employee!