Part 2 of the Happiness at Work series by Enparadigm.
Click here to read part 1.
“Happiness” and “Work” need not be mutually exclusive. The Danes even have a word for this – Arbejdsglæde!
It means ‘Happiness at Work.’
In our previous article, we explored the idea of Arbejdsglæde and how happy employees are more engaged and contribute to increased productivity and profitability. So often, organizations equate workplace happiness to events like R&R programs, engagement activities, and off-sites to exotic locations. But clearly, these siloed initiatives on their own don’t translate into actual ‘Happiness at Work.’
Creating a culture of happiness is imperative to the Future of Work in a post-pandemic, hybrid-work environment. This includes aspects like well-being, diversity, individual purpose, and respect towards the workforce’s work-life rhythm. Yet why is it that well-intended happiness initiatives fail the test of time and are reduced to a list of “fun activities”?
Creating ‘Happy’ Workplaces involves changing individual mindsets, organizational policies, processes, and systems. According to research by McKinsey, 70% of change initiatives fail. Here are some reasons why happiness initiatives fail to drive a sustained change:
For any initiative to succeed, organizations need people who demonstrate required behaviors and suitable systems that integrate and support those initiatives. Happiness is a shared responsibility, and organizations, leaders, and individuals are equally responsible for achieving it.
Enparadigm’s happiness framework focuses on individual and organizational needs (detailed in Part I of the series):
Implementation is what enables this framework to manifest into a driver of actual change. So how do we use such frameworks to building a happy workplace?
Each organization is different, and a cookie-cutter approach of ‘Happiness at Work’ never provides desired results. Instead, organizations should focus on certain principles that can guide them in implementing happiness initiatives at work.
Enparadigm’s IMPACT Model enumerates the principles to be considered while implementing the happiness framework.
Albert Einstein once said that “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”
Without knowing where the gaps within an organization lie, no initiative can succeed. The first step in implementing implement happiness @ work is to deep-dive into two questions, namely:
The assessment of happiness levels should be done using appropriate tools like assessments, engagement surveys, and feedback mechanisms based on the happiness framework.
In the next stage, open and free interactions work well to understand the root cause of unhappiness. These interactions should ideally be facilitated by an external expert to maintain objectivity and privacy. Also, it is crucial to spend enough time digging deeper into the reasons for unhappiness rather than taking abrupt action. For example, if employees express that they’re not recognized enough, understanding the underlying reason behind it through structured but free conversations is critical instead of announcing a new R&R program. Is it because of stress? Or is it because of unrealistic expectations from managers? Or is communication the problem? Focusing on interpersonal, inter-functional, and hierarchy-based relationships aids in identifying the root causes and formulating interventions for happiness at work.
As per many happiness frameworks like Ikigai and Flow, the process of achieving mastery at work is a critical contributor to happiness. Mastery can be achieved only through continuous learning and practice. This skill is not just beneficial for individuals but also for organizational growth. According to research by LinkedIn, employees who learn at work are 21% more likely to feel confident and happy. Training need analysis helps identify gaps in employee capability and behaviors. The gaps can be addressed through learning interventions not just for technical knowledge but also for behavioral traits like purpose, emotional intelligence, authenticity, interpersonal skills, and wellbeing.
One key aspect in designing effective training & learning programs is to keep the learner at the center and make sure that the learner has the autonomy to decide what to learn, when to learn and what mode to learn. The right digital tools that provide journey-based learning and employ the latest AI-driven models that offer real-time feedback and engage with learners can go a long way in encouraging learning and fostering happiness in an organization.
Sydney J. Harris said, “Happiness is a direction, not a place.” It is learning and continuous practice towards mastery that helps set this direction.
Harvard Business School professor Jon Jachimowicz’s research on what makes someone successful at their job compared two key attributes that drive success and happiness, purpose and passion. Interestingly, the study concluded that purpose trumps everything, including passion, as the critical factor in being successful and happy at work. Therefore, helping employees find their Ikigai and aligning their work to propel them towards their purpose helps organizations create happier employees. Research by McKinsey states that for 70% of employees, their work defines their sense of purpose.
Employees' sense of purpose depends on the perceived significance of their work and the alignment of the organization’s values with their individual values. Therefore, clarifying and communicating the company's overall values, strategy, and objectives to the employees in a sustained and engaging manner is key to their happiness. Simultaneously, creating an environment for employees to express their values and encouraging them to explore the values aligned with the organization can go a long way in developing a culture of happiness.
For instance, Southwest airlines see their purpose as connecting people with what’s important to them and not just transporting. They see themselves as enablers who help people get to people or places they care about. This reflects directly in the sense of importance that employees perceive in their jobs. This perception builds a strong sense of purpose in the workforce, which translates not only into excellence and business results but also a deep culture of happiness.
According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology report, ‘autonomy’ is the number-one contributor to happiness. Creating ownership or even relooking at organizational structures to foster autonomy helps in creating safe spaces for growth.
One of the most innovative companies globally, Google has long encouraged its employees to devote 20% of their time to side projects. Gmail is a result of one such project. Allowing individuals the ‘freedom to fail’ drives psychological safety. Another way to promote autonomy is through flexibility. Dell realized that its employees valued flexibility. In 2009, Dell started building a flexible work culture where employees had the freedom to work at a time and place that was convenient to them. The HR and IT departments worked in sync to ensure training, technology, and collaboration tools that helped employees connect and be more productive.
Often organizations have impactful initiatives, but they are under-communicated. Understanding what works best for your people is important when it comes to internal communication (IC). Research shows the average person can pay attention to a speaker for 10 to 18 minutes.
So, at TED, all meetings are limited to 18 minutes or less. At Amazon, IC is bite-sized and targeted. Their strategy is to restrict most communication to 100 words. Internal announcements, messages, and news updates are essential to understand how employees construe the cultural backdrop of the organization. While communicating happiness initiatives, two-way and interactive communication must be the goal. And most importantly, the communication needs to be continuous and not in spurts.
No initiative can be sustained without regular reviews and tracking. Organizations need to set a feedback mechanism, respond to suggestions, and repeat the cycle till the goals are achieved, and the wheels of change are set in motion. Here are three questions that leaders can ask to review the implementation of happiness initiatives in their organizations:
Building a customized, transparent framework with the help of an expert to measure the impact of happiness initiatives will not only help track milestones but also establishing transparency and trust with the employees. In addition, celebrating the wins of the journey will help in sustaining the momentum of the Happiness @ Work program.
Creating happy workplaces doesn’t insulate the organization against future challenges, but it does help in manifesting resilience through happy employees and teams. With hybrid work becoming the new normal and considering the fast-paced evolution of the future of work, leaders need to tap into the happiness factor. If implemented through a systematic approach with the help of experts from the domain, happiness at work can go a long way in the sustained growth and evolution of organizations.