From Aah! to Ahaa!…. Measurables for “Happy Workplaces”

From Aah! to Ahaa!…. Measurables for “Happy Workplaces”

Harini is a strategic HR Leader with proven expertise in organisational restructuring for M&A and Change Management. A design thinking practitioner, behavioral analyst, transactional analyst and innovator, she is a strong advocate of the concept of Happy Workplaces. Currently, Harini is the People Director - GDC at WorleyParsons India Ltd and a guest faculty at prominent B schools and universities.

Job satisfaction and engagement – there is a very thin line that separates these aspects of the work life. While a lot of employees might be ‘satisfied’ with what they do, how many of them are actually ‘engaged’ is what can help us truly measure happiness at workplace. Let’s understand this difference and the role it plays in creating a high-performing workforce.

Anamika took charge as the HR Manager 6 months ago. The Annual Engagement Survey was launched, and the scores were not bad at all. In fact, a fraction better than the previous year. But Anamika was not convinced. She noticed that something was amiss. The employees came in and left every day as if it was a routine. So, what was wrong, you may wonder! Anamika, being the sharp HR manager she was, quickly grasped the reality that employees apparently were ‘satisfied’ with their jobs but not really ‘engaged’.

There is probably a very thin line that divides the two terms. Let us embark on this journey to experience the difference.

Peek into the organisation with satisfied employees and you will find a bunch that is happy or content with their jobs and work environment. On the other hand, a look at an organisation that has engaged employees will reveal those who are passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organisation, and put discretionary effort into their work. Engaged employees are motivated to do more than the bare minimum needed to keep their jobs. They have a strong sense of purpose and leadership. They love to be challenged. Engaged employees are the engine of a company, and their performance is a proof of this. It is this extra bit that goes a long way in creating engaged workplaces. The importance of engagement cannot be overstated. Satisfied employees are merely happy or content with their jobs and the status quo. For some, this might involve doing as little work as possible. An employee satisfaction survey will not diagnose key factors that can help an organisation improve engagement and performance.

In the context of the workplace, measuring happiness out of context will mislead and take you off the rail. It must be measured at the right time, the right place, and using the right tool.

Let’s join Anamika in her mission to find out the reason behind her observation.

How many of us spring up from bed on a Monday morning and not have to drag ourselves to work? How many times in a week do we wait to say and hear “Thank God it’s Friday T.G.I.F.!”?

Anamika pondered, “It is well known that what gets measured, gets managed. But when we talk about an emotion like happiness, how does one measure it? How about defining Key Engagement Indicators?” Yes, there was light at the end of the tunnel. It was important to “HEAL” the organisation with a framework to measure Happiness, Energy, Adaptability and Learnability. Now, how does one implement HEAL?

Happiness is an emotion that reflects a state of mind that is feeling good or pleasurable. In the context of the workplace, measuring happiness out of context will mislead and take you off the rail. It must be measured at the right time, the right place, and using the right tool. Next comes Energy. This is usually evident in the way people respond to emails, phone calls etc. Energized employees usually are seen to drive meetings to conclusive decisions much faster.

Adaptability can be measured by the number of instances where challenges are taken up by employees. Last but not least, learnability is visible in the enthusiasm shown in initiatives in the Learning and Development space.

Measuring employee engagement is an ongoing process. It can never be a one-time event. It is absolutely essential to commit to the process of continuous engagement to ensure that the company is the best it can be.

Anamika noticed that the signs of emotions like happiness trend up or down. When it’s trending downward, productivity decreases, morale slumps, and people may even leave for other jobs. And when it’s trending upward, there’s joy at work, the mood is jovial and business roars. Do formal surveys alone help? Obviously not! So, why don’t we explore and experiment with new ideas! It takes some effort, but it is certainly worth committing to since a proven process can always help the organisation to succeed with increasing productivity, improving retention, enhancing performance and transforming into a high-performance culture.

5 steps to HEAL will put the organisation on the road to measuring and improving engagement at your organisation.

Step 1: Pick a Goal
The organisation’s engagement goal will depend on its size, culture and other variables. But it has been found it’s better to focus on goals associated with business outcomes than to get tied down to a specific engagement score. For this, the business leaders will have to be brutally honest about what they’re willing to invest in to make changes to reach those goals.

Step 2: Socialize the Goal
Once the goal has been set, it needs to flow down to the workforce. It is rather important that the goal is cascaded with utmost clarity. For example, saying something like “We need to improve our engagement levels from X to Y by the end of the year” is too abstract. It gives a message that the organisation is more concerned about a number than actually making improvements in the workplace. Instead, share the original goal with employees, not the numbers behind it: You want to improve engagement to improve retention rates, for example, or build a more open, flexible culture to help retain employees.

Step 3: Define Metrics
Let us explore what data should be reviewed as metrics. There are some observable trends that can be set as metrics, such as attendance rate and average hours worked. These could be subtle indicators of employee engagement and any aberrations in these could be an indicator of poor engagement.

Step 4: Design a Plan of Action (PoA)
The PoA is dependent on the company ’s engagement goals, risk appetite, budget etc. It is important to work with the business leaders and appropriate stakeholders to finalize the action plan. This could be a cycle that involves Discussion of strategy – Setting up the process– taking feedback – making changes.

Step 5: Focus on Long Term
Measuring employee engagement is an ongoing process. It can never be a one-time event. It is absolutely essential to commit to the process of continuous engagement to ensure that the company is the best it can be. It also helps to benchmarkwith other companies as to how they have put these HR employee engagement practices into action.

Talking of engaged employees, it goes without saying that we need to create Happy workplaces and also Make Work Awesome. In this context, it would make sense to review the most talked about VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). Very recently, articles have been published about replacing this with VUCA 2.0 which is a solution. This can be taken another step ahead to VUCA 3.0 where the measurement defines whether the organisation is Vibrant, Unparalleled, Challenging and of course, Awesome.

There are 5 ground rules that each individual can follow in order to feel engaged and also energize and motivate colleagues. The 5 rules are :

  1. Discover your passion or hobby
  2. Drive your hobby along with your work
  3. Make yourself ‘able’ to work a level up and be ‘ready’ to go a level down
  4. Identify an enemy (excuses, self-pity, lethargy etc) every day and kill it.
  5. Celebrate every evening after the ‘kill’.

It is indeed befitting to quote Ricardo Semler, author of Maverick and Seven Day Weekend, “One good question and one good answer are services to all. A sure sign of a troubled company is one where employees don’t care enough to ask and, if that’s the case, they’ll never care enough to fully deploy their talent. Just as curiosity is an antidote to boredom and indifference, the informed are more likely to remain interested, engaged, and alive with purpose.” An engaged workforce leads to creating happy workplaces, a journey from Aah! To Ahaa!



1 Comment

  1. I understand that engagement is better than satisfaction at work, but I was a little disappointed with the article. When you say “Measurables” I thought I would see ways to measure happiness or engagement in workplace. Not a list of steps to make the workplace more engaging.

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