Article (March-2017)


Happiness Matters- Yes, it really does!

Prof. VK Shrotryia

Designation : -   Professor (HR & Strategy)

Organization : -  Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi


365839 Total View        

ORGANIZATIONS strive for better firm performance. In competitive environment it becomes a greater challenge to compete with their previous performance viz-a-viz the performance of the rivals. In all these efforts employees play key role. Employees work in organizations to achieve their individual goals. They put efforts to attain organizational objectives and goals which indirectly helps them achieve their goals. This healthy and complementary relationship keeps adding value to the organizational efforts and achievements. The prominence of human relations school has proven that satisfied and happy employees would be more productive and result oriented. However many times organizations have focused more on customers and clients than employees which has its own wells and ills. But for visioning sustainable competitive advantage and to be a successful player in the long run, organizations have to start believing in prioritizing the focus on employees rather than customers.

Recently, Robert Half, an organization known for its regular presence in Best Places to Work surveys and one of the World's Most Admired Corporations, brought out a study based on online responses of 12,000 workers spread across United States and Canada (data collected in the last quarter of 2016).  The study was conducted in collaboration with Happiness Works and had 30 questions about how happy employees feel at work and to what they attribute this feeling.

Across nations, gender and age a sense of pride in belonging to their respective organization was considered to be the prime factor which drove their happiness with an exception of young employees (aged between 18-34 years) for whom a sense of accomplishment from their work was found to be more important than pride. Pride in belonging to their organization was primary for the employees working in the area of financial services, administration, technology, and HR.  An acknowledgement of the contribution made by employees is reflected through the feel of appreciation which was considered second most important drive for employees above the age of 34 years and for all men and all employees from US and Canada but for women it was the feel of fairness and respect which was more important than feeling appreciated. Overall when we look at the driving forces it amounts to four major factors - sense of pride in belonging to the organization, feeling appreciated for their work, being treated with fairness and respect, and sense of accomplishment.

Employees at the senior level were ranked highest in level of happiness and interest in their job and lowest in stress levels. When we look at the industry-wise responses, marketing and creative professionals reported highest level of happiness and interest in their job and employees working in technology sector had lowest level of stress.The employees above the age of 55 years were found to be happiest as individual employees set. The companies where 10 or less employees were working were found to be happiest companies and when one looks at tenure, it was the first one year of joining that was the happiest time for most of the employees.

While studying these findings one can feel lot of connection with well-established theories and that validates the takeaways of this commendable work. Need for affiliation, power and achievement as propounded by David McClelland are clearly reflected as the driving force for happiness.  These are inherent needs which drive an employee to seek employment, perform one's job and stay with the organization.  Employees recognize strong sense of belonging (pride) and that needs to be honored and nurtured through employee-oriented work schemes and development of friendly working conditions.

Happiness is not just a onetime response or feel, rather it is a sustainable feel resulting in satisfaction which guides further efforts. Happiness depends on individual's priorities and tastes, so it is basically an individual experience and is relative in nature. The challenge before the organizations is to work on providing favorable working environment which helps the employees to sustain the feel of happiness even after initial one year tenure. Appropriate engagements should be developed with employees for their involvement, recognition and morale building which could help them sustain the feel of happiness beyond one year and still if employees do not find it worth staying with the organization, positive exit routes could be created for them. Like many other studies where it was found that during mid-career employees reflect least job satisfaction as compared to when they join or retire from the organization, this study also endorses the same view as employees between the age group of 35-55 years were found to be least happy.

The match between organizational goal and individual goal creates magic for achievement of firm's objectives and develops positive vibes in the organization. The employees who feel that there is mismatch between these goals, are most likely to leave the organization as found in the study.  The study suggests that the organizations need to focus on fairness, work-life balance, and team building apart from periodic celebrations of achievements of the employees.

Senior Executive Director of Robert Half, Paul McDonald says - For businesses struggling to attract and retain workers with in-demand skills, the report provides a roadmap for forging deeper engagement and commitment levels among staff. Nic Marks (to whom I have known for last 13 years), who heads Happiness Works, suggests - Work can be difficult and demanding, but if employees feel proud of what their organization does, respected as a person and appreciated for what they do, then they tend to be happy and do better work as a result. Happiness at work is a genuine win-win, great for employees and great for employers.

The study reports that happy employees are more resilient and loyal. They stay for long term resulting in reduced turnover which helps in cutting cost on hiring and training so it leads to the satisfaction of both the key stakeholders - employees and employers. As happy employees have better sense of attachment with the organization, they voice out their concern and play proactive role in building better organizational value through their positive work behavior which influences employer branding as an offshoot. 

When employees are not satisfied with their jobs they tend to be absent from job, they tend to produce less, and at times increase in poor quality products. On the contrary satisfied and happy employees use their creativity and produce better, portray better sense of commitment and responsibility and express their willingness to own up.  The sense of meaningful work has to be created in the minds of employees which can guide them to put their best effort. Happy employees portray better sense of innovativeness, openness, togetherness and team spirit resulting in developing newer ways to solve difficult problems. Health and happiness has been found very closely associated as happy employees are found to be healthier, allowing them to deal with their stress level in a better way. And such employees are rarely absent from work.

Ever since employees are considered prime resource and positive psychology gained prominence, research studies have shown that happiness has positive effect on work behavior, productivity, and quality of work. In Oct 2015, Daniel Sgroi along with Andrew Oswald and Eugenio Proto published their work which observed - happy employees (experiment group) have approximately 12 per cent greater productivity as compared to the control group.Gallup has conducted several surveys proving the point that highly engaged employees are more productive than others. 

The interaction point in the organization is crucial as it depends with whom a prospective customer or client interacts, whether there is positive conversion into real customer. If the employee is happy and has strong sense of belonging to the organization, the conversion rate is better. In a study by the Disney Institute it was found that in two thirds of the cases, the reason why people stopped using the services of a business was down to the attitude of the people they came into contact with. Only 14% of the reasons were down to the product and around 8% because of a competitor.

Employees need to come prior to customers in the strategy formulation so that strategies can be drawn to improve their well-being and happiness levels. Investment in employees for improving their satisfaction level is a step which should ideally reap good fruits in long run. Only satisfied and happy employees can bring satisfied and happy customers. The experiment of Employees First, Customers Second at HCL Technologies, by Vineet Nayar is an evidence of this fact.

So happiness really matters. It matters for achieving your individual goal. It matters in attaining organizational objectives. It matters in creating magic and driving passion among the individuals working for the ultimate interest of the organization.  Though happiness is primary concern of individual, organizations have to put in place effective mechanism of treating their employees better so that they are able to derive better levels of satisfaction viz-a-viz happiness.
Happiness matters, it really does.