Promoting happiness in the workplace is now a scientifically motivated practice that has proven benefits for productivity, profits and people.
Can happiness at work actually have a positive business impact?
Happiness at work, whether it is described as engagement or something else, is the subject of much attention these days, from the January 2012 cover of the Harvard Business Review to the Sept. 4, 2011, New York Times article suggesting “Happy People Work Harder.” Employee happiness generally does correlate with business results.
Happiness studies, a fairly new field, comprises academic disciplines as diverse as positive psychology, neuroscience, positive organizational scholarship and behavioral economics. Hundreds of researchers in some of the world’s top universities, such as Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan’s Ross School of Business, are working in this area.
Their findings — that optimism increases life satisfaction and creates positive business outcomes, that strong human relationships have a direct impact on the quality and length of life, and that developing strengths is more powerful than trying to fix weaknesses — are being applied in the military, health care, education and the highest reaches of several governments. Happiness studies, broadly defined, even won psychologist Daniel Kahneman a Nobel Prize in economics.
In business, while no one has shown a direct correlation between happiness and stock price, “[There] is a lot of compelling evidence — across industries, continents, sectors, that positive practices pay off,” said Kim Cameron, a positive organizational scholar at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “Companies make more money, they are more productive, they produce higher quality, higher customer satisfaction and higher employee engagement” when they focus on positive practices.Strengths, Strengths and More Strengths
Mainstream happiness studies in the workplace typically focus on strengths. Work in this realm from The Gallup Organization, which is chronicled in StrengthsFinder 2.0
by Tom Rath, head of Gallup Consulting, is well known.
Typically, performance management has been about identifying employee weakness, as is often done in annual performance reviews. Gallup has turned this approach on its head, surveying more than a million workers during the last four decades about their jobs and how often they use their greatest strengths at work. Those who work in environments where they use their strengths daily are “50 percent more likely to work in business units with lower employee turnover, 38 percent more likely to work in more productive business units and 44 percent more likely to work in business units with higher customer satisfaction scores,” write Donald O. Clifton and Marcus Buckingham in Now, Discover Your Strengths
. The Gallup annals are filled with success stories of how a strengths approach improves work outcomes in large businesses such as Toyota North America.