During the last 25 years, I’ve spoken to thousands of employees and leaders in organizations about what makes them happy and able to do their best work. It’s not uncommon for people in leadership to be disconnected from their employees and not really know what makes them happy and able to do their best work.

While conducting an assessment of a large, decentralized organization, I found that the leaders thought their employees were totally onboard with their mission but, in reality, many of the employees had no idea what the mission even was.

The CEO and her team thought the employees loved the fact that she brought in pizza every quarter and took groups of people bowling. Employee after employee told me they felt obligated to attend the “pizza and bowling parties.”

They said the CEO never asked them for feedback or what they needed to do their best work, and they were afraid to disagree with the CEO or anyone on the leadership team. I could feel the tension in the building.

Unfortunately, the CEO really believed everyone loved her. She was very surprised to get the results of the assessment but was willing to look at herself and change her leadership practices and mindset.

What are some of the indicators that employees are happy, invested and like coming to work? Based on research, observation and hundreds of interviews and focus groups, here are 10 observable dynamics amongst employees.

  1. There is visible interaction amongst employees in the office, hallways, and cafeteria. People actually smile and say hello to each other. They laugh with each other and use humor that creates a sense of belonging.

  2. You hear people speaking well of each other and their customers. Employees greet customers and stop what they are doing to provide customer service. Employees spread the “love” to their customers and build connections.

  3. There is resource sharing across work functions, and work groups are not complaining about other departments, or work levels.

  4. Employees know what other functions do on a day-to-day level and how each function impacts the others. No one questions the value of the accounting department.

  5. Employee kitchens and washrooms are clean with the right provisions. They take pride and responsibility for the facilities.

  6. There are employee-initiated social activities with high levels of participation.

  7. Employees are comfortable offering suggestions for improvement because people in leadership respond and put a lot of the ideas into practice.

  8. Employee grievances are either nonexistent, rare, or resolved quickly.

  9. Employees arrive on time and absenteeism and turnover are low.

  10. Employees support each other during personal or family crises and celebrate accomplishments and happy events.

If you haven’t already, start getting to know your employees, lunch or coffee with some of them. Be willing to be introspective on every level. Ask your employees for honest feedback.

Let them give it anonymously if they choose. Impress upon them the importance of their input and your willingness to listen and make changes.

As you make changes in the organization, let everyone know what you’re doing. Make it noticeable, so they know you’re serious and not just going through the motions.

After a few months, review this list and if you’re taking the time to ask and listen. Determine how far you’ve come and the next steps you want to take with your leadership team, your employees and your organization.