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In this series of blog posts, we’ll take a look at some of the most important things for organizations to keep in mind with regards to successfully measuring happiness at work.

Part 1: Why and how to measure workplace happiness
Part 2: What you should be measuring to create a happier workplace
Part 3: Employee mood: the one thing every organization should be measuring

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Measuring employee happiness, when done properly, can be incredibly helpful in guiding efforts to improve the workplace by identifying organizational problems and strengths (see Part 1)

In Part 2  we looked at what you should be measuring to get the right type of insight – metrics directly related to your organization’s biggest challenges and critical success factors. Of course, what matters for one team won’t necessarily matter for another, which means that every organization will take a unique approach to track what’s most relevant for them.

That said, there is one critical question that any and all organizations should be (but likely aren’t) asking their employees, regardless of their specific workplace context: employee mood.

Employee mood
If you want to know how happy your employees are, ask them!

At the end of the day, we’re trying to figure out how people feel about their jobs and workplace. Yet strangely, very few organizations actually ask this simple yet powerful question. “How happy to do you feel?” (or some variation of this question): this seemingly unassuming question in fact can have the power to pull all your workplace happiness insight together and connect the dots in a clear and tangible way. It can mean the difference between whether your workplace happiness strategy is successful or not. It can save teams significant resources in terms of time, energy, motivation, and money. Simply put, this is the one question every organization should be asking its employees.

Now to be fair, simply asking employees “how happy do you feel today?” isn’t enough on its own, but when evaluated alongside other key happiness metrics, it does offer valuable insight that might otherwise get missed.

Avoid getting stuck in “can’t see the forest for the trees” mentality
Let’s use an example we’re all probably familiar with to illustrate the point.

Imagine you’ve just finished a meal at a restaurant and have been asked to fill out a short survey to rate different aspects of the experience. For over half of the questions, you give a low rating, and only 2 questions get a high score. Here’s what it might look like:

Please rate the following items on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being poor.
Quality of food 2
Speed of service 2
Friendliness of staff 5
Cleanliness 3
Menu choices 1
Price 2
Ambiance 4

The restaurant owner gets your survey (which is consistent with the other customer surveys they’ve received) and panics – after all, looking at your rating, you’ve obviously had a poor experience overall.

Not so fast.

If the owner had asked you one final question, to rate your overall experience – “how happy are you with your overall experience?” – she might be surprised to see that you ranked it at a “4” and, in fact, you had a really good experience.

So…what happened here? How do we explain the seemingly contradictory results?

The reason is simple, actually – because while the restaurant asked you to rate the various parts of the experience, they didn’t stop to ask which parts of the experience you actually value the most. Because if they had, they would have discovered that for you, “friendliness of staff” is one of the most important elements of the experience. Sure, the food was crummy and service was slow, but you don’t place much value in those. For you, going out for a meal is all about the social interactions, and the waiter’s amazing attitude and bubbly disposition managed to help you overlook all the negatives.

Business Implications
Consider the possible implications for this restaurant. Without having asked that last question and getting the full picture, the owner might very well come to the conclusion that they need to make a major change in the business to avoid losing customers. So what do they do? They overhaul the business and focus on improving the quality of the food, menu options and speed of service.

In other words, the owner just invested substantial resources without having a full picture of where those resources are needed most (or if they’re even needed at all). Perhaps these upgrades will bring positive results for the restaurant, or perhaps they’ll find that they’ve spend significant time, energy and money without seeing any real change in customer loyalty or satisfaction. The point is, they just don’t know. And this is where we come back full circle to our one key question that every organization should be asking their employees: “how happy are you?” By asking employees how they feel on a regular basis and matching that data with your other key happiness metrics, you start to paint a complete and accurate picture of what’s really going on within your organization and focus your attention to what matters the most.

And the best part? This is such a simple metric. If I asked you to tell me, right now, how you’re feeling, chances are you would be able to give me a relatively clear and honest answer almost immediately, without having to put much effort into it. Explaining why you feel the way you feel often requires some degree of effort and in some cases, we simply might not totally understand why we feel a certain way. But just explaining how you feel in the moment? That’s virtually effortless!

There are also a number of tools out there to make answering the “how happy are you?” question as easy and insightful as possible, each one tailored to suit the needs of a specific type of business. Friday Pulse, Heartcount and Happiness Lab are three such tools used by the Woohoo Partnership, though there are many more options out there to choose from.

Series Conclusion (same-same, but different)
At the end of the day, all organizations should want to create a happier and healthier workplace because happy teams achieve better outcomes across virtually every business metric that matters. To summarize:

    • Focus on what matters most to your team;
    • Track these metrics in a thoughtful and concrete way;
    • Make the most of your insight by asking employees how happy they feel;
    • Measure as often as possible; and
    • keep your employees involved in the process.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring happiness at work: all teams are different. Whatever metrics you do decide to track, one thing is clear: taking the right approach to measuring can go a really long way in developing impactful and effective initiatives and in boosting your organization’s commitment to creating a happier and healthier workplace.

Author: Sheona McGraw