“There is no evidence to show any conflict between economic growth and happiness. And indeed, quite the reverse,” said Professor Sir Angus Deaton, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2015, during a keynote speech at the Business Leaders Summit in Davos, Switzerland, in January.
Gone are the days when feeling good about where you worked was little more than a wishful aspiration. Traditional measurements for “being good at your job” – working long hours, being connected to the phone and constantly feeling overwhelmed – are fast falling by the wayside.
Today, technologies such as Big Data are making it possible for organization leaders and HR professionals to benefit from a data-driven approach to people-related decisions and practices that is being applied to everything from hiring to diversity inclusion, performance management to feedback and engagement to offboarding. The goal of this drive to accurately gauge employee wellbeing is to maximize emotional capital, which recent studies have linked to greater productivity.
Goodbye HR by Intuition, Hello Happiness Sensors
Deciphering the physics of happiness motivated the Japanese multinational conglomerate Hitachi Ltd. in 2017 to first study and then invest in such people analytics technologies as high-tech badges, known as ‘happiness sensors’. The aim of the study was to research the link between happiness and productivity.
The company monitored employees’ conscious and unconscious body movements as well as their working activities through a name card-shaped sensor each wore.
The experiment covered 600 employees in the Hitachi group’s corporate sales operations. The results showed that the longer the people in the divisions used the app, the happier sections within those divisions were. In terms of achieving order targets, performance was 27 percent higher than in sections where happiness levels fell.
Why Being Happier Makes Employees More Productive
Although the old conventional wisdom was that if only companies paid their employees enough, they’d be more productive, a growing list of empirical evidence indicates that this causal chain of events is reversed. Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. When individuals feel positive, they tend to be more creative and better at solving problems. Additional research has shown that when workers are happy they’re more effective collaborators working toward common goals.
There are several theories as to the reason that happier employees make for better employees:
1) Frankly, My Dear, I Give A Damn: Happy employees are typically the ones who care about the company and are driven to help it reach its goals. Supermotivated workers are even driven to find out what these goals are in the first place. When employees are happy, they feel invested in their organization and thus more compelled to work.
2) No More Sick Days: A happy employee will take less time off sick, have better mental health and create close working relationships with effective communication. What’s more, happiness is infectious, so happy staff will influence others in the office and happy clients.
3) Happiness Is As Creative Does: Greater employee creativity has been directly linked to happiness and boost a company’s bottom line. A recent Forbes article stated, “When looking at Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ stock prices rose an average of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the overall market.”
HR’s Role: Use Technology to Make Employees Happier
Initiatives to encourage workplace wellness range from flexible working to mental health support and financial or physical rewards for performance. Research suggests that such schemes can boost retention rates, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
Moreover, harnessing Big Data and other technologies is no longer considered an option, the playthings of such international conglomerates as Hitachi Ltd. A recent report published by YouGov indicates that the lack of workplace happiness can have far-reaching side effects. Employees with a poor work-life balance tend to be more disengaged with life in general than the average person, with those aged 25 to 34 particularly at risk.
Research also finds that employee engagement remains the single largest HR challenge.This will only change once employee happiness becomes a top priority. And happiness at work is measured by whether and how an employer is trying to make his/her employees happy; whether a manager makes decisions that are perceived as being in the best interests of the employee and whether an organization is actively helping its employees reach their long-term financial goals.
The good news is that the same research indicates that happier employees are likely to perform with nine times better intensity. As most people sense and studies have confirmed, an employee’s overall sense of wellbeing is enhanced by being able to strike a perfect balance between work and life outside the office. Now more than ever, HR managers have the knowledge and technology at their fingertips to help companies make more money by making their employees happier.