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Employee Happiness

Do you know what your senior management is discussing behind closed doors? Often, they are talking about employee happiness—or the lack thereof. A recent issue of Harvard Business Review (January 2012) included a series of articles about employee happiness issues.

Many employers have finally recognized the importance and relationship of engaged employees to higher performance. While numerous consultants and HR veterans have touted this relationship for some years, until recently it appeared that the majority of employers had downplayed or ignored the issue—until now.

The Beneficial Component of Happy Employees

Rob Markey, a partner in noted capital firm Bain & Company, commented on this issue in his blog, “Transform Your Employees into Passionate Advocates,” for Harvard Business Review in January 2012. Noting that employee happiness is a current hot topic with CEOs and in boardrooms across the country, Rob also cautions that “happiness for its own sake is not the right outcome to seek.”

Your employer could make you happy by giving you a large pay increase, gifting you more vacation or personal days, or even offering free breakfast and lunch, with all meals prepared by the world’s top chefs. However, only a scarce number of things deliver long term benefits to employers from their happy employees.

After years of research, studying links between employee engagement (happiness) and customer loyalty, Rob notes that the only path to both happy employees and shareholder benefit that he has identified is creating a feeling of fulfillment. This satisfaction comes from getting important tasks, jobs or projects completed successfully.

Beyond happy, employers should help employees achieve great things. This often helps staff become passionate advocates of their employer’s mission. This solidifies the link that Rob and other researchers discovered between the passionate advocacy of employees and the passionate advocacy of loyal customers.

How to Identify if Your Employer Cares About Your Happiness

Many employers may care about having happy employees, but fail to make the right connection. Those companies that understand the relationship between employee happiness and customer loyalty, along with excellent operating results, typically use one or more of the following philosophies.

  • They give (and expect) line managers to take ownership. Instead of relying on HR to measure and foster employee engagement, they understand the crucial link between employee happiness and customer loyalty. There is little HR can do to strengthen this “critical marriage.” Companies that understand this important connection, like Apple and JetBlue Airways, give their managers employee surveys and other feedback. The operating managers then “own” the results of their teams, making changes or improvements to achieve higher customer loyalty. Employees, achieving noteworthy results, often develop the passionate advocacy that makes them happy and top performers.

  • They use clear, simple measurement techniques. Many employers still use the venerable annual employee survey, with a daunting number of questions, to gauge their staff happiness and engagement. Senior management receives voluminous detailed reports, complex metrics and, often, confusing measurement data. Enlightened employers typically scrap this approach in favor of simplicity. They survey employees often, asking only a few simple questions. These employers then evaluate equally simplified reports. Responses to more direct questions, such as “How likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend as a place to work?” permit employees to answer honestly—and in their own words. This simple measurement technique usually offers more meaningful employee input that better identifies their happiness quotient.

  • They solicit honest feedback from their customers. The most important component of companies that care about employee happiness, encouraging a consistent level of customer feedback and quickly sharing results with employees, can establish the beneficial staff happiness these employers crave. Hearing how customers rate their buying experience and overall service, particularly if positive, is a dramatic way to deliver good news to employees. Even some negative customer feedback can help increase employee happiness by offering concrete shortcomings that, when corrected, will improve customer loyalty.

Happy employees are typically both loyal and passionate. Working for an employer that values your happiness and takes steps to improve your contentment is important to most employees. Do you feel that an employer that cares about your happiness will motivate you to work harder, fuel your creativity and inspire you to go the “extra mile” for your company? Most driven-to-succeed employees answer, “Yes.”

Does your employer truly care about your happiness? Do they give you the opportunity to succeed—to do great things? Does your company solicit your feedback and act on the results to make the workplace better?

If they do, you are probably in the right job at the right time. Should they appear to be uninterested in your happiness, you might want to consider another employer that understands the benefits they receive from having happy employees.



© 2014 Kelly Services, Inc.