Measure and Increase Work Happiness for Organizational and Employee Success
“Happy people aren’t happy because they are successful; they’re successful because they are happy. Happiness is a predictive measure,” Jeff Sutherland explains in his book, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.
The idea of happiness is something that relates to all aspects of our lives, but it is rarely measured, discussed, or even fully understood in the workplace. As Sutherland says, it is a predictive measure, as any increase in work happiness almost inevitably leads to better outcomes, both personally and professionally. Even a little bit of happiness can have a great impact.
These might seem like strange times to be talking about work happiness, with unemployment and pay cuts consuming many people’s attention. But our experience has taught us that true, lasting happiness comes through learning, progress, and growth. That growth often, if not always, comes from opposition and change, concepts the whole world has been forced to focus on in 2020.
So now–when all organizations have been forced into being more introspective and making sweeping changes–is the perfect time to invest in a brighter, happier future for your employees.
How employers can promote work happiness at the organizational level
To promote greater work happiness, employers need to create a culture where we measure happiness and, more importantly, where we measure improvement.
Part of the Scrum methodology, which we use at AKA to deliver services, is the “retrospective”. This is an evaluation of work done during a certain period of time, looking at what went right, what could have been done better and, more importantly, what can be done to make it better in the next work cycle. This is measured against projected, budgeted, or estimated performance metrics. This is what supports the continuous improvement concept in Scrum.
What if we were to follow the same concepts, but to measure the happiness of our teams, our employees, and our partners? To do so, we would need to establish a baseline, a set of simple questions that let us know where everyone’s happiness level is with their work, their position in the organization, their role, and their expectations of personal and professional growth.
Here are 3 ways you can establish a baseline and understand your organization’s work happiness:
For many, the annual review process feels arbitrary. A box-checking, going-through-the-motions type of exercise we speed through so we can get back to work. In my experience (Matthew), the best review process I have had was actually one that occurred FOUR times in a year for new hires and two times per year for everyone else. Concise feedback in just a few categories was captured by my peers and then reviewed in person with the COO, my manager, and a project manager from one of the projects I had worked on during that time period.
I will say, if this was executed like the same old crummy annual review process people are used to, everyone would quit. But when executed with a “let’s talk about what you did well and where you might be even better” approach, it made it obvious to me that my company cared about me, my career progress, and my success.
Surveys can provide valuable insights into how your organization is doing, where you can improve, and how employees are feeling. Keeping surveys anonymous will ensure openness. In these surveys, ask specific questions about career happiness. We are surprised at how many co-workers we have spoken to that have never been asked if they are happy. A survey can be created in minutes, and their results put into automatic reports using plug-and-play tools such as Microsoft Forms.
3. Policy & Practices
Create policy and practices that affirm your organization is a safe environment for employees to be open and honest. Ask your team members if they are happy with their work, their role, and their position. Be willing to have hard conversations with employees and listen to their responses.
We both have worked at organizations where we did not feel safe discussing concerns and were broadsided with ultimatums for asking what we thought to be simple policy questions. We recognized that no one does their best work when they are afraid. Furthermore, those red flags made it easy for us to leave those organizations shortly after they made it clear they do not value open and honest dialog.
Once a baseline is established, you can start measuring improvement, adding actions that will lead to an increase in happiness as activities that need to be part of our planning. As team members see improvement, their desire to be engaged, committed and successful will also improve!
How employees can improve their work happiness
It is not just the responsibility of an employer to create happiness in an employee’s career. The gears of change turn slowly, and the bigger the company, typically, the slower the gears turn. You cannot wait around for your organization to do everything. So, if you aren’t happy in your career, don’t quit immediately; instead, become the change you want to see.
An important part of our overall work happiness comes from factors that are external to our careers/work:
- Getting enough sleep
- Getting enough movement during the day
- Eating and hydrating correctly
- Establishing boundaries for work/life balance
Here are the work/career-related factors that we found can have the greatest impact on work happiness and satisfaction:
- Learning new things/growing skill sets/working towards certifications
- Asking questions
- Proposing improvement plans for crappy company policy or lack thereof
- Identifying the tasks we enjoy the most and finding ways to do those more
- Setting meaningful professional goals
Also, recognize there are some common career ambitions that won’t necessarily make you happier in your career, or the happiness will be short lived (thanks to the Hedonic Treadmill). These include:
- Title change or promotion, just because it is the “next step”
- The amount of money you make (Watch this video)
Have realistic expectations for yourself and your organization. One of our mentors once said, “You could really want it to rain root beer, but it will never happen”. You can, however, manage your expectations by communicating them to your managers and asking what it will take to achieve specific changes.
Organizations can create an environment that leads to happier, engaged employees by promoting transparency, ensuring everyone knows how their role contributes to the whole, and allowing for a degree of autonomy where employees can control their destiny and serve a purpose greater than themselves. Integrating these elements into your organization’s culture will lead to an overall increase in happiness of your employees.
Looking for an organization that cares about your work happiness? Check out what AKA has to offer.