Digital Workplace Insights

Employee Happiness versus Employee Engagement. Which One Matters More?

You have a happy workforce, but productivity and output are lagging. How could this be? You’ve likely heard the statistics claiming that employee happiness increases productivity by 12%, so why is it that your workforce isn’t performing the way you’d expect?

The answer may be found in the following two scenarios. Which employee would you rather have?


The Happy Employee
Sam works for Company A. Company A is pretty cool because they’ve got a self-service kitchen full of organic snacks and a refrigerator full of kombucha and beer. Employees at Company A get free lunches and Margarita Fridays! When Sam arrives at work each morning, he gets started on whatever project has been assigned to him. Sam gets paid well, thinks his coworkers are great, and Margarita Fridays are, well lets be honest, an awesome way to start the weekend. Sam is happy so he shows up and does what he needs to do every day.

The Engaged Employee
Melissa works for Company B. Company B is a promising startup, but they haven’t raised a lot of money yet, so the extra perks are limited. Melissa gets paid well, and she loves working with smart people who challenge her every day. During Melissa’s commute, she checks her company’s social Intranet on her phone to see if there are any conversations she needs to catch up on. When Melissa arrives at work each morning, she reviews feedback inside the Intranet received from customers who’ve commented on project documentation that she shared with them. She’s usually excited to find a few insightful responses from the CEO and CMO. This communication motivates her to set and achieve new goals.

Employee Happiness does not Equal Engagement
Companies want employees who are both engaged and happy, but they often make the critical mistake of believing that happiness equals engagement. Happiness certainly doesn’t exclude engagement, but it’s only one part of the big picture.

Employee engagement is what leads to business growth, and while happiness at work is essential, it’s only one of many factors required to generate engagement.

What Drives Employee Engagement?
The IBM Smart Workforce Institute and Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute developed a groundbreaking global study of more than 23,000 employees across 45 different countries and several different industries, finding there are five factors contributing to employee engagement:

1.     Belonging - feeling part of a team, group, or organization.

2.     Purpose - understanding why one's work matters.

3.     Achievement - a sense of accomplishment in the work that is done.

4.     Happiness - the pleasant feeling arising in and around work.

5.     Vigor - the presence of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement at work.

Driving employee engagement requires organizations to foster each of these five factors. And although it might seem like a whole lot of handholding and coddling, today’s digital workplace is empowered by tools that make it simple to integrate these five factors into the daily routine.

Tips for Keeping the Modern Workforce Engaged

Communication
Per the fictional scenarios above that depict happy versus engaged, it doesn’t take much to help an employee feel a sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, and even vigor. Establish networks that make it easy for employees to share their work and get quick feedback either from their teams or from the entire organization when appropriate. Executives should be sure to show they are listening. It doesn’t take much - a simple ‘like’ to a comment on the Intranet or a response to an important question goes a long way in making an employee feel instantly valued.

Technology to use: Intranet, enterprise social network, project management platform

People
Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? This is an example of an interview question asked at Whole Foods. Why? Because Whole Foods understands that the answer to this question will indicate whether or not a person will fit well into their organizational culture, and will bring a sense of enthusiasm and energy into the workplace. Aim to hire people whose personalities indicate that they are going to contribute to the vigor of your organization's environment, because those are the people most likely to be engaged and will also help generate engagement. 

Technology to use: HR management software, enterprise social network

Create Challenges
You hire people for a particular expertise, but when employees work within their comfort zone for too long they get bored - and disengaged. Real growth happens when people are challenged to do things they aren’t comfortable with. Push people to acquire new skills related to their expertise. Encourage people of all levels, not just management, to lead a team project or team meeting. Make professional growth part of your organization’s culture, and you’ll find that as your employees break through boundaries, their sense of achievement will be continually refueled. This will reflect on overall engagement and business growth.

Technology to use: Intranet, enterprise social network, project management platform

And yes, happiness
Of course happiness matters. Don’t make assumptions about what will make your employees happy. Ask them and be sure to listen to what they say because you may be surprised. True happiness at work often goes beyond perks like gourmet coffee and artisanal beer. Although those types of perks certainly can’t hurt!

Technology to use: Survey software, enterprise social network, Intranet

At the end of the day it’s important to invest in both happiness and engagement, but be sure to zero in on engagement, as that’s where the real growth occurs. Engaged employees are going to push boundaries and will create value for your organization in multiple ways. Building an engaged workforce is certainly harder than dishing out free snacks and lunches, but with an emphasis on engagement your company’s success is sure to grow.

 

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