White Paper on Happiness at Work
by Chris Cook, President and CEO of Capiche: Understand and Develop the Capital Within
The purpose of this white paper is to offer busy executives the opportunity to review the current concepts and ideas on happiness at work, as discovered through the research of Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO and founder of the Oxford-based iOpener Institute for People and Performance. This white paper condenses her latest book, Happiness at Work: Maximizing your Psychological Capital for Success, published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2010.
Happiness seems to be the newest fad, with happiness at work taking center stage. Fortunately, today’s “fad” is born out of research. Researchers at Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Oxford University and University of California Riverside, are just a few in the game. I say it’s about time. Non-research-based pop psychology has been around for years, with best-selling titles like Who Moved My Cheese, The One-Minute Manager, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Finally, that which we all intrinsically understand about human motivation and happiness at work has been empirically proven to be true. Now—and this is the best part—happiness has been proven to positively affect an organization’s bottom line.
Pryce-Jones defines happiness at work as a mindset that allows individuals and organizations to maximize performance and achieve their potential. This happens during the highs and low—both when working alone or in teams. By mindfully making the best use of the resources they have, people overcome challenges. This not only builds their happiness but also that of others—who will be affected and energized by what they do
Pryce-Jones conducted extensive studies on more than 9,000 employees that lead to these findings:
- The happiest employees are 47% more productive than their least happy colleagues—contributing 10 hours more each week than their unhappy counterparts.
- The average, unhappy U.S. private sector employee takes six days of sick leave a year. Make that between 11 and 20 days per year for public sector employees. Those employees who are happiest at work take less than one day per year.
- The happiest employees have 180% more energy.
- Engagement and job satisfaction are higher for happy employees. Happy employees are 108% more engaged and 82% more satisfied with their jobs than their unhappy colleagues.
- The happiest employees are 50% more motivated than their unhappy colleagues.
- Compared to their unhappy colleagues, the happiest employees:
- Feel that they are achieving their potential 40% more
- Embrace goals 30% more
- Accept 27% more in challenges
- Happy employees experience more respect—28% more from their peers and 31% more from supervisors.
- People who are happier are 25% more effective, 25% more efficient, and have 25% more self belief.
- The office does not matter. Forget the new carpet or beautiful carpet. Like pay raises, the work environment causes only a temporary spike in happiness, after which people return to their usual level of happiness.
Expressed another way, productivity is reliant upon having employees who rate highly in five key areas: contribution, conviction, culture, commitment, and confidence, and have high degrees of pride, trust, and recognition.
If you are an executive, ask yourself if your employees have the following:
- The ability to create their own goals
- A way to break those goals into practical and concrete objectives so they are easier to achieve
- The ability to raise issues that matter to them, allowing them to stay on track to achieving the goals and objectives
- Feeling of security in their jobs so they can focus on what they do and contribute more
- Someone who will really listen to them, on a deeper level
- Receiving frequent positive feedback (did you know that neutral or negative feedback doubles sick leave taken?)
- Feeling appreciated for who they are, what they contribute, and receiving thanks for what they do
- Respect—not only respect from the supervisor, but respect for the supervisor, along with mutual respect among peers
Contribution is the single most important of the five key areas to building employee happiness.
Conviction starts with motivation, which includes purpose, direction, and effort. This is enhanced when an employee has choice, competence, and connectedness. Surprisingly, efficacy matters more than efficiency, although both are important to conviction. Efficacy is about bringing good results—it’s the employee’s output. Achieving both means that employees are able to take time to stop, think, question what they do and why, then consider how something might be done differently.
Resiliency—in both the short and long term—impact employee efficiency and efficacy. This is especially important when times are tough, whether a business is downsizing or a crisis compromises a project.
The last component of conviction is having perception that one’s work has a positive impact. The bigger the impact, the better. This offers employees a sense that their work life is purposeful.
Culture is defined as the norms, values, and behaviors specific to a specific organization and work environment. A good cultural fit exists when employees like their colleagues, appreciate the organization’s values, and feel that they are being treated fairly.
Employees who believe that the culture is unfair report being disengaged 32% of every workday. In contrast, those who feel they work in a fair environment report being disengaged only 6% of the day. As importantly, fairness affects health. A perceived lack of fairness is associated with poorer thinking, sleepless, and increased risk of heart attack.
The other component of culture is an employee’s sense of self-sufficiency—the notion that he or she has some degree of control in the job. Feelings of low control increase burnout, sick time, conflict at home, and heart disease. The demands of a job and the deliverables the boss wants don’t change in a good culture. What does change is that the employee has the ability to manage the demands and deliverables. This can be as simple as deciding what order to perform tasks.
An employee will never be commitment to a job and organization if he or she is unhappy at work. Commitment is defined as doing something worthwhile, being interested in the job, believing in the organization’s vision, and having strong positive emotions.
Interest in a job is strongly associated with energy and engagement. Research has proven that people who are most interested in their work are 110% more engaged in what they are doing compared to their least interested counterparts.
An organization’s vision should be a brief, motivational outline of a specific future—when employees know where they are headed, they know what they should do. Employees who believe in the organization’s vision are more productive and have a higher level of committee and contribution. And, those who have a most belief in the vision intend to stay in the job for 75% longer than their colleagues who do not think or feel the same way.
Without confidence, employees are likely to have low contribution, conviction, and commitment. The happiest employees experience 40% more confidence than their unhappy peers.
Confidence has three elements: getting things done; having high levels of self-belief; and understand one’s role backwards and forwards. High levels of self-belief happen when an employee experiences success and observes others succeeding.
Pride, Trust, and Recognition
Pride, trust, and recognition need to be in place for employees to feel truly happy at work. Pride comes from identifying with the organization, knowing who one’s work affects, and being aware of its wider impact. Trust must exist with colleagues and senior leadership, and is about:
- Results: Are they delivered, and not fake or altered?
- Reliability: Are words and deeds consistent?
- Reactions: Are the real or false, stifled or accepted?
- Relationships: Is everyone treated as an equal partner, not matter how low or high ranking?
- Rumors: Are there more than usual? What is their source?
Finally, employees need recognition for achievements. This isn’t about money; it’s about being recognized for what one does, how he or she works, and dedication. More importantly, it’s about recognizing people in the way they most prefer. Some want recognition in the form of words (delivered face-to-face or by email), gifts (lunch), or symbols (a certificate). Each employee will want to receive recognition in different ways. Do you know how each of your direct reports prefers to be recognized? Do they know how you prefer to be recognized?
Summary and Conclusion
The Performance-Happiness Model is significant and matters to an organization’s success because one can measure the levels of the 5Cs, trust, recognition, and pride—and by building them—help individuals achieve their potential. This, in turn, will translate to higher potential of their organization, team, or department. The bottom line is that better performance leads to better business outcomes.
The workplace is changing, and today’s employees are loyal to themselves. How do businesses create organizational commitment leading to sustainable growth and competitive advantage? How do businesses foster pride, trust, engagement, and job satisfaction? By helping their employees achieve their potential.
Many organizations are overlooking a valuable resource that can give them a competitive advantage—their current workforce. By investing in their current workforce, organizations can realize increased work performance, commitment, and job satisfaction within their existing workforce. They will see fewer sick days and more time on task. This equates to positive organizational change, a competitive advantage, and higher profits.
Next Steps for Improving Performance and Happiness in an Organization
Employee and team member happiness can be measured. Using an assessment tool that measures contribution, conviction, culture, commitment, confidence, pride, trust, and recognition, a leader will be able to identify the specific areas that need most improvement in order to boost employee happiness. Assessments are available for individuals and teams.