Article (February-2018)


Employee happiness at workplace: An essential change maker

Dr. Indranil Bose

Designation : -   Dean of School of Business

Organization : -  University of Bolton, Academic Centre-Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates


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A recent report published in the New York Times has indicated that global giant Amazon decided to pay the unhappy employees to quit in recent times. The unique scheme offered up to US $5000 to the employees, who felt unhappy, unproductive in the environment of organization. The report further stated that though the scheme was initially introduced for the warehouse employees, yet the same has been expanded to some other units, where low employee productivity has been reported over a period of time. In Middle East, organizations like Emirates NBD Bank, Al Futtaim group etc. has started specific initiatives to promote greater happiness at the workplace. However, their initiatives can be observed as the extension of the happiness initiative by the UAE government in recent times. In these organizations, management cadres have been made responsible to increase the happiness at their respective workplaces and a significant component of their performance evaluation framework has been dedicated for the same. Such examples are plenty, vivid and innovative across the globe. A recent study by Society of Human Resource Management (2016) has indicated that majority of the multinational companies working across the globe are at different stages of recognizing, acknowledging and implementing happiness initiatives at their workplaces. To some organizations, the same is being found as the extension of some of the traditional practices such quality of work - life, emotional engagement of the employees etc. and to many organizations, specific indexes have been the instrumental in the process of implementation of the initiative. Like Amazon, all the organizations initiating happiness measures, may have not adoptedzappos' business model, but have incorporated qualitative parameters and quantitative measurements for furtherance of the plan. Based on the happiness index measures, propagated in 2012 by United Nations, nations are started to be ranked on several parameters such as GDP per person, healthy life expectancy, and social support during times of difficulty, freedom to make their life's choices, and sense of how corrupt their society is. The main focus was however, to redefine the growth narrative to put people's well - being at the centre of governments' efforts. The essence of such concept has been incorporated and applied in corporate happiness initiatives also. Many recent studies on employee happiness have found that factors related to remunerations and incentives, transparency at workplace, social and professional support at the times of difficulties faced by the employees, freedom enjoyed by the employees, sense of job security and growth etc. matter most. However, in different in different locations, these factors might have different effects on the happiness of the employees.
On the effect of employee happiness on the business, different observations have come out from different studies. Studies on OECD countries by EU business policy committee (2015) have revealed the phenomenal reduction in the medical cost by many organizations. Another study by the university of Queensland and Australia labour bureau has found that employee engagement and subsequent productivities of the employees are directly dependent on each other. Studies on Indian employees on the specific issue of employee happiness is rare, though the researches are possible with new perspectives as Indian culture, psyche and expectations are completely different and unique in all senses. In recent times, employee happiness related researches and the practices in the corporates have witnessed a new demand from the employees across the globe due to rise in the number of migrant workers and employees in many countries, economic turbulences in many traditionally progressive countries etc. However, many organizations in banking and financial sectors, pharmaceutical and research sectors, construction and manufacturing sectors in those countries are striving hard to balance business deliveries and better happiness quotients at the workplaces. Because, it is the trusted development that ensuring employee happiness through policy plans, tactical initiatives and process implementation have caused positive impacts on business in the long run.
However, there are still many issues involved related to the concept, framework and process of employee happiness implementation. Some of the practitioners have blamed the concept as too western and the same cannot be practiced in non - western working situations. Many have raised the aspects of employee preparedness to understand and adopt the corporate policies on the issue. Culture and social perceptions, macro and micro - environmental influences have also been identified by many practitioners mainly from developing economies for different levels of implementation of the concept. However, the significant positive differences caused by the practices of employee happiness have never been questioned. For effective implementation of the same, more than cost involvement, what matter most is to understand and adopt the practice in accordance with the nature, composition and expectations of the employees of the organizations and a greater commitment from the decision making authority. Even, the format of implementation and thrust areas will be differing to make the practice more effective.