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Pursuit of Happiness | Indian Management Magazine

Pursuit of Happiness by Never Grow Up®

While every organization today seems to be utterly busy in the scramble to engage their employees, are they often overlooking what employees truly want, happiness at work? Having apparently cracked the code with regards to employee engagement, Happiness Quotient seems to be the next big thing that has taken the fancy of the corporate world.

As humans, we are prone to noticing trends and patterns in seemingly unrelated, haphazard sequences. It is probably because of this attribute ingrained in us that we are always on the look-out for trends – a meaning and method in all the madness. After a considerably long preoccupation with the importance and need to measure IQ and EQ, the trend today is to understand and measure HQ at work. And this now achievable through employee engagement surveys.

What is Happiness Quotient?

The Happiness Quotient of an employee is a comprehensive measure of the various factors that drive an individual at a personal and professional level and hence, resultant, is also a measure of the happiness and satisfaction that the employee experiences at work. Simply put, the Happiness Quotient of a working individual is the amount of ‘happiness’ that they derive from their work and organization.

If the concept of Happiness Quotient evokes a sense of uncertainty, it is because there is hardly a construct in the world that has been perceived more subjectively than “happiness”.  Debates have raged across history and continue to do so over its definition, parameters and most importantly, the factors that influence it. The fact that it ranges, often drastically, from one individual to another is what has universally established happiness as an elusive construct. What follows from that conclusion is that a construct as elusive as happiness could not possibly be quantified.

Hence, conversations around a term such as “happiness at work” are more often than not taken in a lighter note than say, a quantifiable term such as “profit margins” or “productivity levels”. One often find the action for happiness at the workplace a factor to be relegated to the position of a ‘personal choice’ or a ‘state of mind’.

As far as I understand, however, this reasoning has certain flaws.

The subjectivity of happiness cannot be disputed. But the fact that happiness ranges from one person to another should not stand in the way of understanding it; if anything, the variety of individual ways in which people experience happiness at work offers a smorgasbord of “data” on which conclusions can effectively be drawn.

From this ‘data’, the construct of Happiness Quotient can be better understood by analyzing the common factors that stand out and influence it. From my experience, I find that there are certain universal work factors that govern the degree of satisfaction that employees feel towards their jobs and organizations.

The Factors That Affect The Action of Happiness At Work

While the definition of happiness at work varies across age, start with the basics, an essential factor that drives professional satisfaction across varying demographics is that of a suitable work culture and environment. The tangible and intangible factors woven in the fabric of an organization have a direct impact on the performance of an individual. Moreover, keeping in mind that most employees spend the better part of a day, if not the week, at work, the elements that make up their work environment play a huge role in influencing their everyday state of mind.

The work culture and environment also play a huge role in yet another significant element of workplace happiness – interpersonal work relationships. The work culture can act as both a positive as well as a negative influence on the way employees communicate, interact, collaborate with each other. It also directly impacts the employee’s work life balance. In the pursuit of happiness at work, employees try to maintain such a balance. In an ideal scenario, the relationships we form at work with our peers and colleagues and the rapport we share with them help foster a sense of support and collaboration that has been proven to positively impact productivity levels. This leads to a beneficial (or deleterious) process that sustains itself – work relationships influencing the work environment and vice versa.

The workplace happiness levels of employees are also dependent on how their values and personal priorities in life align with those of their company’s. Having already acknowledged the subjectivity of the ‘happiness’ factor, we know that no two people are driven by the same factors in life and hence, it follows that no two people seek the same things from their respective organizations either. It becomes important, therefore, to identify the motivations that drive an employee forward and whether their role in the company aids them in fulfilling those motivations. Moreover, employees who have a clear idea of their place in the larger framework of the organization are more likely to identify with their work responsibilities than the ones who do not. This sense of accountability for and satisfaction lie at the centre of understanding employee happiness levels.

This begs the next question: even as we have figured out the factors that drive the Happiness Quotient of a workforce, how close are organizations to truly deriving employee happiness levels today? Well, if the commonly-employed annual surveys are anything to go by, organizations might be way far off the mark in this regard.

Surveys That Measure Happiness

For starters, disregarding the ever-evolving nature of the professional landscape, regular company surveys lack regularity and hence bring about an irregularity in feedback. That too, in an era where eager, budding employees are thriving in a fast-paced world of instant online feedback!  It is thereby essential to regularly keep up with the pulse of a happy workforce to continue with the initiatives that are working, or with the pulse of an unhappy workforce to realise the need to bring about a change before things take an unpleasant turn and affect productivity.

Secondly, another factor that common organizational surveys are missing out on is that of user-friendliness. With the advent of technology has come convenience at work. Organizations now have at their service efficient digital survey platforms that employees can access at their own leisure. Not to mention the fact that employee engagement surveys going digital serves as a big boon to the ordeal of data analysis as well.

As I mentioned earlier, if workplace happiness can indeed be broken down into factors, quantified and measured, there is a whole plethora of Happiness Quotient ‘data’ that organizations have not tapped into, but that carries immense potential of realisation into real-time solutions. When this potential meets modern digitalisation, employers can have at their service all the aforementioned data that pertains to a specific department or age-group, helping them understand and focus on the needs and concerns of any particular group better. The hallmark of a successful organization after all, is not just knowing but knowing specifically what their employees want and need.

Lastly but most importantly, however, the entire concept of employee engagement surveys as it stands today needs a reconsideration essentially because employee happiness levels have never truly featured in either their intention or framework. The questions asked by organisations have not truly centred more on “Is this working out?” rather than “What makes you as an employee happy?”

But isn’t the pursuit of happiness in whatever we do, our biggest motivation? Also, do we not want to have a part to play in how we seek that happiness?

Hence, while company surveys feature as a mandatory part of every organizational policy, there is general consensus on the fact these mandatory surveys are often viewed not as the helpful, engagement-oriented initiative they seek to be but as boring, tedious tasks that serve no real purpose. This is because in all honesty, it is not possible to get your workforce either motivated or invested in a survey that in their opinion, serves no true purpose or benefits them in any way. Organizational surveys need to transform themselves from appearing as yet another tool for the organization to drive productivity rather to a sincere means for them to gauge their employees’ happiness. Surveys focused on measuring the Happiness Quotient of a workforce reflect that the company is willing to lend an honest ear to the employees while offering them an inclusive and rewarding opportunity to voice concerns and make a difference.

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