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
One of the most common questions I get asked as a Chief Happiness Officer is how to actually measure happiness at work in the first place; and rightfully so. Because let’s face it – what organization is realistically going to invest significant time and energy into anything without having at least some form of proof that it might lead to more success for the business? And, even if a company does decide to invest in creating a happier workplace, how will it know if it is taking the best approach and using its resources in the best way possible if it isn’t tracking employee happiness along the way?
Measuring employee happiness is a critical part of ensuring the long-term success of an organisation’s workplace happiness strategy. If done properly, it can actually guide efforts to improve the workplace by identifying organizational problems and strengths. That said, measuring workplace happiness isn’t always easy or straightforward. In fact, measuring virtually anything in a meaningful way is typically contingent on having access to extensive and relatively unbiased data, which can be challenging, time-consuming and expensive to get. What’s more, happiness at work initiatives aren’t typically being done in isolation, so it can be tricky at the best of times to quantify a causal relationship between your initiatives and data-proven outcomes. In other words: is it your happiness-at-work initiative that’s actually making employees more/less happy, or is it something else entirely – like a change in leadership, a merger, or even the weather?
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to track happiness at work that won’t break the bank (or your brain!)
Measure in real-time and be ready to take immediate action
Companies looking for clues or insight into the overall happiness of their employees all-too-often rely primarily on the information gleaned from their bi-annual or quarterly employee surveys. Now, while this type of survey may very well have its uses, offering timely and actionable insight typically isn’t one of them. In order for data to really be useful for creating a happier and healthier workplace, it should be tracked on a monthly or, even better, a weekly basis (more on this in part 3). Sure, knowing that there’s a lack of trust between employees and managers is potentially game-changing, but only insofar as you’re able to actually do something about it – and fast. So while many of these quarterly employee surveys have the right idea, they often don’t allow for real-time insight and action, and in some cases they can even damagewhatever goodwill you might have with employees. There’s no better way to erode trust with employees than to ask them for feedback and then do nothing about it.
Thankfully, we’re seeing companies shift towards pulse surveys and real-time data tracking solutions. Not only does this enable a team to fully appreciate the true nature of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (woohoo! let’s hear it for the SWOT!), but it also helps to ensure that unrelated external influences such as the weather won’t carry so much weight in your findings.
Ask fewer and better questions
But what about survey fatigue, you ask? Not a problem, so long as you ask far fewer questions at a time.
It isn’t uncommon for quarterly employee surveys to ask 50, 75, even 100+ questions of their employees. (Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap!) This fact alone accounts for part the reason why it is so challenging to make heads or tails of the data that is collected, and to identify clear, actionable steps to enhance the overall employee experience. And let’s not forget about that unspoken promise that you’ve just communicated to your team – for every question you ask your employees, there’s an expectation that you will actually do something about any major issues raised. If you ask employees about 20 different topics all at once and only address a couple of them, at best you’ll be seen as ineffective or disorganized and at worst, you could foster a sense of distrust, cynicism and disenfranchisement within the team.
By being strategic with which questions you ask (more on this in part 2), you can help focus your team’s energy into providing solutions for some of your biggest challenges.
Take steps to ensure your data is accurate
When was the last time you went out of your way to give feedback to a restaurant, for a product, or some other service provider? (Heck, when was the last time you gave feedback to your significant other?) Chances are, it was when you had a somewhat extreme experience. After all, who actively goes onto Tripadvisor to leave a moderate review of a hotel? The only time I’ve ever put any effort into giving feedback (either online or directly) has been when I was either appalled or delighted with my experience. I have, however, provided feedback for fairly average experiences when it involved little to no effort on my part. I’m not saying I’m lazy; I’m saying we’re all lazy – it’s human nature! Take the effort out of providing feedback for your employees and you’ll be in a much better position to capture insight from the less-extreme cases. Sure, it is important to hear from employees who either love or hate their jobs, so long as it is put into perspective.
Another important way to improve the accuracy of feedback and insight from your employees is to eliminate any fears or worries of the feedback somehow getting back to the employee. If employees are scared of being penalized or punished for giving negative feedback, chances are they’ll keep their thoughts to themselves. Anonymizing the feedback process (providing employees with the opportunity to give feedback anonymously), being transparent and honest about how the feedback will be used and who will have access to it, and having a trusted third party collect feedback are all great ways of offering a sense of security to employees.
- Be strategic with your questions – only ask those that matter most to your team’s success.
- Have the resources in place to be able to take immediate action based on insight you gather (…and DO take action!)
- Collect and measure data on a regular basis (weekly if possible, monthly at a minimum)
- Make it as easy as possible for employees to give feedback.
- Create a safe environment for employees to give honest feedback.
- Communicate your findings openly, honestly and regularly with employees so they trust and share in the process.
Author: Sheona McGraw