Beyond employee engagement – Employee Happiness?

I have noticed that a ‘new’ employee metric has been much discussed recently, employee happiness. Is this yet another employee sentiment to measure? Employee satisfaction and employee engagement are metrics that we have all become familiar with. But what is this ‘new’ one all about. As organisations compete to retain a skilled workforce that delight customers and are productive innovative company advocates and promoters, do they now need to consider their employees happiness too.

Why Employee Happiness?

The research has moved us beyond satisfaction to engagement. It is understandable that satisfaction alone is not enough to make employees feel completely involved in the organisation. The stronger the engagement, the more likely the employee will act in the interests of the employer. But where does happiness fit into all this.

Are you happy at work? If you are, the chances are that you work harder and better than your less happy counterparts. Research shows that happy workers are more productive, have more energy and are more likely to stay in their jobs than unhappy employees.

A new survey on the health and wellbeing of UK workers conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found people are less satisfied with their work situation than the rest of their life. Three quarters scored their life happiness at 7 out of 10 or above, but mean scores for happiness with work were lower at 6.7. Despite members of staff claiming work was the “most unhappy” part of their lives, those in employment were generally happier than those out of work.

It would seem that happiness at work falls within the employee engagement spectrum.  As Henry Ford once said:

"There is joy in work. All that money can do is buy us
some one else's work in exchange for our own.  There is 
no happiness except in the realization that we have 
accomplished something."

But What Makes us Happy at Work?

This is not a new idea – the concept of happiness and its links with productivity, performance and effective leadership have been the subject of extensive research for the past few years. However, one of the problems connected with the theory, that it is difficult to define happiness, and the things that make us happy at work and elsewhere.

Gallup’s research suggests that having a great boss and good friends at work are two huge factors. Although this seems to ring true the work itself sometimes is a big factor as well. Getting to do something you are really good at and have a passion for is important – in our experience Ford is correct – feeling that you have accomplished something at work and that you make a contribution are equally significant factors.

Ideas to Measure Employee Happiness

From the insanely simple…

  1. At the end of each day member of staff leaves the office they encounter a display of three large buckets. One bucket is full of tennis balls. The other two buckets are marked ‘H’ for ‘Happy’, and ‘U’ for ‘Unhappy’, respectively. As staff exit for the evening, they grab a tennis ball from the full bucket and place it into either the ‘Happy’ bucket or the ‘Unhappy’ bucket. The next morning a member of staff tallies the previous days’ results, posts them on the company intranet, and re-sets the bucket voting system for the new day. The organisation can track the results and trends over time, and are able to take the temperature of the organisation to some extent each day.
  2. A recent trend is to ask only one survey question: “On a 1-10 scale would you recommend your company as a great place to work?”. Those that score a 8, 9, or 10 are called your “promoters” and are likely to talk about how great their job and employer is to anyone who will listen. The logic of these one-question surveys is that employees are much more likely to answer a survey if it is only one question, and the 10-point scale provides a wide enough range to capture diverse opinions. The biggest problem with these one-question surveys is that what do you do if you get a score of 3? Unless you start asking follow-up questions, you have no idea why you got a low score and what to do about improving it.
  3. Developing an employee happiness index for your organisation. The key to measuring a dimension as complex as employee happiness is to construct an index that is based on a number of different individual metrics so it is more thorough and accurate than any singular statistic. This index could be based on metrics available to the organisation such as absenteeism, hours worked per week, internal promotions, pay versus industry, complaints/grievances, participation in social activities with colleagues.

Learn more about employee happiness, setting indices and more by contacting us.